President Kennedy Signs a Bill to Provide Equal Pay for Women

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President Kennedy Signs a Bill to Provide Equal Pay for Women


By: Anonymous

Date: June 10, 1963

Source: Associated Press

About the Photographer: This photograph was taken by an unknown photographer for the Associated Press, a worldwide news agency based in New York.


During World War II (1941–1945), women flocked to join the workforce as their patriotic duty. However, by the close of the war, women were pushed from the workplace in order for companies to be able to offer jobs to returning veterans. Through the 1950s, many women returned to the traditional role of homemaker and mother, but many other women continued to pursue employment. Women were also discouraged from pursing education and professions such as medicine, law, and business and were restricted from apprenticeships for skilled trades. In 1960, only 35.3 percent of bachelors and professional degrees were awarded to women. Women in the workplace at this time averaged 1.6 more years of education than men but were paid sixty-four percent of men's wages. By 1960, one quarter of married women with children worked. These women occupied traditionally female staffed positions such as secretaries, sales clerks, and teachers. And in 1963, women earned fifty-nine cents for every dollar earned by a man. Even employment advertisements were divided by gender, promoting men-wanted or women-wanted positions.

As the civil rights movement began to flourish across the United States, the concept of diversity in the workforce also began to flourish. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy (1917–1963) began to require federal contractors to take "affirmative action" to ensure individuals were treated without regard to race, color, or national origin. On June 10, 1963, President Kennedy signed into law the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which was enacted as Section 6(d) of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The Equal Pay Act was the first law to suggest that men and women should be paid equal amounts when their positions are equal. Its intent was to secure equal pay for similar jobs, eliminate discrimination, and end the depressing effects on living standards resulting from lower wages for female workers. The law supported women's economic rights and attempted to reverse the historical standard of paying women less than men for their work. The law requires equal pay for work requiring equal skill level, effort and responsibility performed by male and female employees. Equal work is expressed as positions requiring equal training, education, and over all ability required from employee. Equal effort is defined as the amount of mental and physical exertion demanded. The law prohibits labor unions from causing an employer to discriminate wages on the basis of gender. However, the Act does permit differential pay if it is based on something other than gender, such as seniority system, merit system, or a system of measuring earnings by quantity or quality of production. The burden of proof of discrimination lies on the woman. The female employee must prove in court that she received unequal pay for equal work and that the basis for the difference is gender. The Department of Labor was tasked with the authority to enforce the Equal Pay Act.



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In 1964, the year after the Equal Pay Act was signed into law, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed. Title VII of the act provided additional protections to women and minorities in the workplace. The act prohibits discrimination on the job in the areas of hiring, firing, compensation, classification, and promotion on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion and gender. By 1965, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was started with an initial budget of $2.25 million and one hundred employees.

Women's participation in the labor force grew in years following the passage of the Equal Pay Act. By 1970, thirty-eight percent of the labor force was female. However, these women continued to face deflated salaries and earned, on average, sixty-five cents to each dollar earned by men. Because of the Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act, these women had recourse to challenge discrimination. In 1970, the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that jobs need not be identical to fall within the Equal Pay Act guidelines. Jobs that are "substantially equal" must be paid equal. In addition, in 1974, the US Supreme Court ruled in Corning Glass Works v. Brennan that the "going market rate" for salary is not sufficient reason for paying women less than men, "simply because men would not work at the low rates paid by women." Both of these rulings strengthened the standing of women in the workforce under the Equal Pay Act.

By the 1990s, outside factors began to affect the labor market. Union strength decreased while downsizing, outsourcing and the usage of temporary workers was on the rise. By 1998, women were earning, on average 76.3 percent of men's wages, although the Labor Department cites a decline in men's wages as a reason for some of the income gap change.



Crampton, Suzanne M.; Hodge, John, W.; Mishra, Jitendra M. "The Equal Pay Act: The first 30 years." Public Personnel Management. (September 22, 1997).

Herman, Alexis M. "Equal Pay: A 35-Year Perspective." US Department of Labor. (June 10, 1998).

Stites, Janet. "Equal Pay for the Sexes." HR Management. (May 1, 2005).

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President Kennedy Signs a Bill to Provide Equal Pay for Women

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President Kennedy Signs a Bill to Provide Equal Pay for Women