Signed into law by President John F Kennedy as part of his New Frontier programme in 1963, America’s Equal Pay Act was aimed at abolishing wage disparity based on gender. In passing the bill, Congress stated that sex discrimination depresses wages and living standards, prevents labour resources being fully utilised, leads to labor disputes, obstructs the free flow of commerce and constitutes an unfair method of competition.
The UK Equal Pay Act followed seven years later, prohibiting any less favourable treatment of women relative to men (and vice versa) in terms of pay and the conditions of employment. Similar legislation has been enacted since in many other countries.
These laws have helped to narrow the pay gap between men and women, though nowhere near fast enough. In 2020, the World Economic Forum reported that across the 153 countries it tracks, the gender pay gap has been steadily shrinking—yet, extrapolating recent trends, it forecast that the gap would not be fully closed globally for between another 99.5 to 257 years.