Forty years ago this year, the Equal Pay Act was passed. In 1963 women working full-time, year-round were making just under 60 cents to a man’s dollar. It was still legal to separate the want ads into “Help wanted, Male” – where the engineering, lawyering, medical, and scientific jobs were found – and “Help wanted, Female” where the nursing, teaching, cleaning and typing jobs were found.

The Equal Pay Act is a very simple law. It says that it is illegal to pay women less than men for doing the same job, when skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions are approximately the same. It does make exceptions for “piece rate” work, for seniority, and merit pay in most situations. On the 40th anniversary of the law this June, we will find that women are now making somewhere between 74 and 75 cents to a man’s dollar overall. Slightly more for white women, less for Black women, and a measly 53 cents for Hispanic women. Mighty slow progress.

Ten years after equal pay was enacted, another law – Title IX – went into effect. This one prohibited discrimination in school programs receiving federal funds. That meant girls had to be considered for those slots in law schools, medical schools, and engineering classes that led to the better paying jobs. It also meant girls’ sports should get a fair share of funding. It was no longer legal for schools to field six or eight boy’s teams and no teams for the girls. Because girls were given opportunities in school, at the other end of the pipe, twenty-five years later, we saw the emergence of women’s professional sports, including the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). And we saw more women’s sports represented in the Olympics, where women brought home the gold as often as the men.

So there is no question that Title IX has been a success story for women’s participation in sports. But the Equal Pay Act hasn’t delivered in near the same measure for female athletes. If you think that 74 cents for the average woman in the workaday world as compared to one dollar for the average man is lousy, consider the average WNBA salary. It is about ONE PENNY on the dollar to the average NBA player. That’s right. The women make around $46,000 per season, while the guys (even those that play only a minute or two) rake in $4.5 million on average. The situation is so bad that many of the women are forced to play a second season in Europe just to make ends meet.

The NBA and the WNBA are owned by the same folks. Management says the women can’t have more because their league is still losing money, as most startups do. No doubt the men’s side didn’t turn a profit in its early years either, but the players weren’t shortchanged. Decent salaries were considered an investment in the future of the league. Besides, the women aren’t asking for those mega-millions. They just want a raise. And one way to get it would be to adjust the money formulas. NBA players get close to 60 percent of revenues back in salaries. The women get a pathetic 15 percent, and are prohibited from the lucrative endorsement deals the men enjoy.

The National Council of Women’s Organizations, whose member groups got these laws passed in the first place, have endorsed the WNBA players’ push for better pay in its current negotiations with management. While women have entered sports arenas in record numbers, when it comes to the pocketbook, the basketball court is far from level.

Martha Burk is a political psychologist who heads the Center for Advancement of Public Policy (www.capponline.org).

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