By Lacy Scarmana
A Senate committee this week heard testimony regarding the Paycheck Fairness Act 2014, an amendment to the original Equal Pay Act that seeks to close the wage gap between men and women.
The proposed legislation would hold gender-based discrimination in the same regard as other forms of wage discrimination, such as race and allow women to take legal action for damages.
Nationally, a woman makes 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. An Indiana woman’s median income is 73 percent less than a man’s median income. African American and Hispanic women make even less.
Caroline Dowd-Higgins is a career coach and Director of Professional Enrichment at the Indiana University Alumni Association. She says part of the problem is that men are more likely than women to negotiate salaries and benefits.
“Women need to advocate on behalf of themselves and understand what their value is in their organization and learn the art of negotiation,” Dowd-Higgins says.
Labor economist at Indiana University Lynn Duggan says most of the pay gap is explained by men and women working different types of jobs. She says the skills women are encouraged to have don’t always coincide with high-paying jobs.
With more women receiving college degrees, they are increasingly obtaining professional positions. However, while droves of women are entering the professional workforce, they are also leaving it by their late twenties or early thirties.
Duggan says motherhood creates a larger wage gap. Women between the ages of 20 and 24 make 89 percent of a men’s median weekly earnings rate. That number is down to 78 percent in women between the ages of 35 and 44, according to an American Association of University Women study.
“To me that says one thing, you know, they had to leave the labor force, they had to fulfill some primary parent role,” Duggan says.
She says employees in many entry-level professional jobs work well over 40 hours per week, thus eliminating much of a social life. By the time they are ready to have a family, women must sacrifice these time-consuming careers.
Duggan’s solution to this promise is to not leave one employee responsible for 90 hours of work per week, but to split that job into two positions. This would allow more time outside of work for a personal life and women wouldn’t have to choose between a job and their families.