Close the Pay Gap with Workplace Policies for the 21st Century

See All: 21st century workplace policies|economic security|Equal Pay

12 Apr 2016

April 12, 2016 is Equal Pay Day, the day that symbolizes how far into this year a white woman needs to work to make the same amount as a white man did in 2015 due to the gender pay gap.

Nationally, women earn just 79 cents for every dollar earned by a white man. In Maine, white women earn 78.9% of what white men earn. It is important to note that for Black, Latina, and Native women, the gap is significantly greater and they must work much farther into this year to make the same as a white man did in 2015. Black women make just 63% of what white men make, Native women make only 59% of what white men make, and Latina women make just 54% of what white men make. That means an average Latina woman will need to work through October 2016—ten extra months—to earn what an average white man earned in 2015. Transgender women, immigrants, mothers, and women with disabilities all also face larger pay gaps.

The gender pay gap adds up to a significant loss in earnings across women’s lives—with a woman working full time losing more than $400,000 during her working years. This wage inequality exists across education levels and in nearly 98% of occupations.

In Maine, the gap adds up to an annual loss of income of $9,647 for women working full time. According to the National Partnership for Women & Families, Maine women who are employed full time lose an average combined total of nearly two billion dollars every year due to the wage gap. With nearly 55,000 Maine families headed by women—and 17,513 of those families struggling with poverty—closing the wage gap would do much to improve the financial stability of women and their families as well as boost the economy of our state.

There are clear policy solutions to end this disparity. In Maine, we can:

  • place our Equal Pay law under the Maine Human Rights Commission to ensure that wage discrimination is addressed through a process that is more supportive of employee needs;
  • expand access to paid leave like California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and New York have done through the creation of a state fund into which employees contribute; and
  • strengthen protections for pregnant workers by clarifying the law to explicitly state that employers must provide pregnant workers the same reasonable accommodations they routinely provide workers with temporary disabilities.

Federally, we can:

  • pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would prohibit retaliation against employees who make wage discrimination complaints and create a right to legal action for workers who have faced wage discrimination. It would also provide businesses with assistance in implementing equal pay policies and enhance investigation of wage discrimination claims;
  • adopt a national paid leave standard by passing the FAMILY Act. This would allow qualified workers to collect benefits equal to two-thirds of their monthly wages—subject to a cap—for up to twelve weeks of leave;
  • enact the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would make it illegal to refuse a reasonable accommodation for a worker’s pregnancy-related condition; and
  • build a strong system of quality childcare and early childhood programs that are affordable for low-income and middle-class families.

In 2016, most women need to work, but because women are the primary caregivers for their families—whether caring for children, aging parents, or other family members—women are disproportionately affected by outdated workplace policies that do not reflect the realities of families or the workforce in the 21st century.

If we close the wage gap, women will have more money to spend in our communities. The average Maine women would be able to:

  • buy 73 more weeks of food;
  • pay for seven more months of mortgage and utilities payments;
  • pay for more than twelve months of rent; or
  • buy more than 4,096 additional gallons of gas.

As our executive director Eliza Townsend reflected, “If we want to move Maine’s economy forward, we must ensure that women can meet their very real responsibilities both at work and at home. We know the solutions to do this and to close the gender wage gap. The Maine Women’s Lobby calls on our elected leaders to join us in working to pass policies that would create a more prosperous future for all Mainers.”

 


 

If you want to support our work to advance policies that will close the gender pay gap, please consider making a donation at bit.ly/MWLdonate. Be sure to subscribe to our Action Alert & E-News for opportunities to take action on the issues that matter to you.

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