It's Equal Pay Day, but Still No Paycheck Fairness Act

Women still making less than men in finance, computer programming and in higher education.

When it comes to women's pay, progress has been slow.

When it comes to women's pay, progress has been slow.

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Democrats in Congress are recognizing "Equal Pay Day" and using it to push for progress and passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

The legislation, which has been introduced numerous times in Congress, but never passed in both chambers, would prohibit employers from paying a man more than a woman for the same job and stop employers from punishing women who call them out for pay disparities.

[READ: Unemployment Falls to 7.6 Percent; Job Gains Slow Considerably]

"It is not a women's issue. It is an economic issue for families," says the bill's sponsor, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn. "We have had real opposition to the bill. There is a lack of belief that this exists."

The Census Bureau estimates that the average earnings ratio between a man and a woman is that women make 77 cents for every dollar men do. That stat, however, is not an average of each industry, but a composition overall. According to the fact checking website Politifact, female computer programers make 95 cents for every dollar their male counterparts make; female lawyers, on average, make 78 cents on the dollar and female financial advisers are estimated to make just 58 cents on the dollar.

Bloomberg estimated last year that out of the 265 recognized industries, women only outearned men in the service worker category.

When it comes to women's pay, progress has been slow.

[READ: 10 Cities With the Smallest Wage Gap]

In 1963, women made 59 cents for every dollar a man made. In 50 years, women have secured 18 cents more for themselves.

So what's the holdup?

On Capitol Hill – where rank-and-file members, male and female, all make $174,000 a year – the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has not brought the legislation to the floor. The bill was last brought to the floor in 2009, when Democrats still held the House. And in the Senate, 52 lawmakers who supported the legislation could not break the 60-vote threshold needed to break the GOP filibuster last spring.

The Obama campaign used the issue as a major election-year flash point last year, painting GOP nominee Mitt Romney as out of touch with the needs of women. And if Republicans want to close the gender gap, some experts say pay equality would be a step in the right direction.

"I think the message of the last electoral process to lawmakers is that women are not an interest group, they are a majority of the electorate and a majority of the U.S. population," says Victoria Budson, executive director of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard University.

"All lawmakers, when they look at the numbers and women voting patterns, understand that women go to the polls more than their male counterparts. They are registered more. Both parties need to speak to the issues and concerns of women. Period."

But lawmakers are hopeful that the Senate might take the lead on this year's legislation. With a record 20 women in the Senate, DeLauro says that this could be the year.

"I hope with a Democratic majority that we could get there," DeLauro says. When asked how she might convince her colleagues who are on the fence, she said, "It is about shaming people. Men, women and families need to overwhelm the body with their interest in this issue."

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., the Senate sponsor of the bill, is working with leadership to find a time when the bill can be brought up for a vote this year, but nothing is scheduled yet.

The Senate version has 43 cosponsors. The House version has 192.

"Nearly 50 years after the passing of the Equal Pay Act, women are still being redlined, sidelined and pink slipped because we fight for equal pay for equal work," Mikulski said in an emailed statement. "Equal pay is not just for our pocketbooks, it's about family checkbooks and getting it right in the law books."

But not everyone thinks the legislation is a good idea.

Critics argue that the legislation opens businesses up for unfounded lawsuits and that the bill itself fails to address the central problem.

"It threatens to impose onerous requirements on employers to correct gaps over which they have little control," Christina Hoff Sommers, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute wrote in the New York Times last year.