CT Post Op-Ed

In his second inaugural address, President Obama reminded America that “our  journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a  living equal to their efforts.” A few days later, Governor Malloy asked his  departments of Labor and Economic and Community  Development to look into gender-based wage disparities in the private sector  in Connecticut.

Both President Obama and Governor Malloy are asking the questions that are  long overdue. Why do equally qualified women make, on average, just 77 cents for  every dollar a man makes? Why, 50 years after Congress passed the Equal Pay Act  to end the “serious and endemic problem” of unequal pay, has the gender-based  wage gap only closed by less than one cent per year? And why are companies not  held accountable when they blatantly persist in this economic form of  discrimination?

According to the AAUW’s Wage Project, over a lifetime a high school graduate  is deprived of $700,000 of the income she has rightly earned. For college  graduates, the wage gap robs women of $1.2 million, and for professional school  graduates, it is $2 million. For women of color, these disparities are even  worse. And the wage gap is not just a problem for women but for families, who  are trying to pay their bills, get ahead, and achieve the American dream, and  are getting less take-home pay than they have earned for their hard work.

It is well past time to take the further concrete steps that will close the  wage gap for good. Four years ago, President Obama signed into law the Lilly  Ledbetter Act, which ensured that women who are discriminated against have the  right to sue as long as their unequal pay continues. This was a good and  necessary first step, one that rectified the damage done by a divided Supreme  Court in their flawed Ledbetter decision.

The next step is the Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation Congressman  DeLauro first introduced in 1997 and reintroduced last week. The Paycheck  Fairness Act requires that employers who try to justify paying a man more than a  woman for the same job prove that the disparity is not sex-based, but  job-related and necessary. It prohibits employers from retaliating against  employees who discuss or disclose salary information with their co-workers. And  it strengthens the remedies available to wronged employees, to give the Equal  Pay Act real teeth at last.

The Paycheck Fairness Act has passed the House twice and enjoys the support  of the president and more than 200 organizations across the political spectrum,  including the U.S.  Women‘s Chamber  of Commerce, the American  Association of University Women, Business and Professional Women, and the National  Women‘s Law Center. It will make a huge difference in ending unequal pay,  but we do not have to wait for Congress to act.

As such, Sen. Barbara  Mikulski  and Congresswoman DeLauro have officially called on the president  to take action, including by issuing an executive order banning government  contractors from retaliating against employees for disclosing salary  information. While Congress waits to act, President Obama can make a difference  now by expecting compliance from the companies with whom the U.S. government  does business. We strongly urge him to do so.

Fifty years after the Equal Pay Act, and as Connecticut and the nation  continue to struggle to pull out of this recession, it is important to see our  failure to remedy the wage gap as a huge missed opportunity. When women are  finally paid what they deserve for doing the same jobs as their husbands and  brothers, that additional income will help to stimulate the economy and create  more jobs all across this nation. We are now in the second decade of the 21st  century. It is time to answer President Obama’s eloquent call and make the wage  gap a thing of the past.

Rosa DeLauro is congresswoman from the Third District in Connecticut. Teresa  Younger is executive director of the Connecticut  General Assembly‘s Permanent  Commission on the Status of Women.

Original Article