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Gender Pay Equity - Are We There Yet?

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Gender Pay Equity - Are We There Yet?

By Assemblymember Bill Dodd

It’s graduation season, and many young people are celebrating their accomplishments and preparing for the next chapter in their lives. As I reflect on the promise of this generation and all they will accomplish, I also find myself concerned with the state they are inheriting. Pay equity is one of the fundamental issues we must address to provide our children a brighter future and a better state to call home.

Rosie the Riveter has yet to get paid like her male counterpart - after more than 7 decadesOur state often leads the nation in social change. However, one area that has been greatly overlooked has been the promotion of equal pay for women. Through no fault of their own, women across the nation over the past decade have continued to earn just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns on average. Did these women only pay 77% of the cost of their education? Did they only attend class 77% of the time? No, they didn’t. So why then should female graduates enter a workforce make less than their male counterparts for doing the exact same work?

The answer is they shouldn’t. But unfortunately, they do. In California women earn slightly more than the national average, but still only earn 84 cents on the dollar. For women of color, the gap is even worse. Decades of research confirms that the pay gap persists even controlling for factors such as experience, career field, or education.

This is not only a problem for women, but for our entire society. It’s a human rights issue, and one that hurts families and endangers retirement security. Four in ten mothers are the primary breadwinners for their family and two-thirds are a major source of their family’s income. The pay gap between full-time working men and women amounts to an annual average of nearly $11,000 in lost income and totals hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime.

This year the state Legislature is considering several measures aimed at addressing income inequality. I introduced Assembly Bill 1354 to promote equal pay for equal work. My bill would require state contractors to maintain policies that help ensure pay equity and mandate proof of compliance with those policies through reporting on the wages these contractors pay their employees by gender and race. Collecting this additional data will help the state in appropriately targeting their efforts to reduce and eliminate the wage gap in California. This is only one step towards addressing the problem – there is still much to do.

Income inequality has been a problem in our country for generations, and if we don’t act now I fear it will go on for generations more. We owe it to these graduating students, the hardworking women in the workforce now, and future generations to correct this injustice.

State action is only one piece of the puzzle; we also need to stand together as a society to say it’s unacceptable to pay people less simply because of their gender.  In the recent words of Elizabeth Warren, “We don’t win what we don’t fight for.”

I will continue to fight for equal pay for equal work, and I hope you will join the cause.

 


 

Assemblymember Bill Dodd represents the 4th Assembly District of California, which includes all or portions of Sonoma, Napa, Lake, Solano, Yolo, and Colusa Counties. You can learn more about the district at www.asm.ca.gov/dodd