Why Young Women Should Care About Equal Pay Day

This is important stuff, people.

If you're in your first job, or about to graduate and jump into the workforce, today is a vitally important holiday…it's Equal Pay Day!

Founded in 1996 to raise awareness about the lack of pay parity between men and women, Equal Pay Day is important to all of us, of course: women are still making 77 cents to a man's dollar. (Every year, Equal Pay Day is on a different day — it's the day a man would have to start working in order to make a woman's annual salary.)

But equal pay awareness is especially important for those of us who are just starting out. Why? Because what you make at the beginning of your career — and whether you fight for a higher salary from the outset — will determine how much you make for the rest of your life, setting you up financially for the next, oh, 45 years.

Get this: right out of college, women earn $35,296 to a man's $42, 918. That means that over your lifetime, you'll lose $434,000 to $2 million because of the wage gap.

So it's up to you to take charge as soon as you can — right at the start of your career. Start negotiating your salary right away; don't assume that just because it's your first job, or an entry-level position, that you're "lucky" to have it, and that asking for a salary commensurate to the position will knock you out of the running. Check out our salary negotation guide and bargaining-table tips from high-level businesswomen like Serena Williams and Katie Couric to learn more.

And help pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, an update to the Equal Pay Act from 1963, by contacting your Congresspeople, listed here.

This Equal Pay Day, though, there is good news—today, President Obama signed two executive orders: one that prohibits federal contractors from retaliating against employees who share salaries, and one that mandates that federal contractors publish wage data.
"Restoring opportunity for all has to be our priority, making sure the economy rewards hard work for every single American. Because when women succeed, America succeeds," President Obama said. It's a good start (although we need the same rules for all employers, not just federal contractors). Let's make sure we keep fighting until we're completely, finally, equal.

Whitney Joiner