On April 14, 2015, a standing room only crowd marked Equal Pay Day at the Massachusetts State House. Equal Pay Day 2015 symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn the same amount as a man earned in 2014. Due to the gender pay gap, a woman must work about 3 ½ months longer than their male counterparts. On average in the United States, women earn only 78 cents for every 1 dollar a man earns, a 22% gap. In Massachusetts that gap shrinks to 18% - but it’s still a gap. The gap is even bigger for women of color. For every dollar a man makes, an African-American woman makes about 64¢, a Native American woman makes 60¢, and a Latina woman makes 54¢.
The event was moderated by Victoria Budson, Chair of the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women and Founding Executive Director of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard, who provided insightful information while introducing each speaker.
Senator Anne Gobi, Senate Co-chair of the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators, welcome the assembled audience pointing out that the pay gap was not only about individual women and individual families but also about the businesses on Main Street. She noted that it is important for Massachusetts to attract and keep a talented, educated, and skilled workforce and that closing the pay gap is important to Massachusetts companies where women spend their money. Sen. Gobi also noted that the first equal pay bill introduced in Massachusetts passed out of committee with a favorable recommendation (It did not pass the House) in 1923, 92 years ago.
Representative Gloria Fox, House co-chair of the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators, encouraged all women, ordinary women, to come to the State House and make their voices heard in the People’s House. Rep. Fox noted that ‘It’s always good to see women and girls in the House…and in the Senate.”
Senate President Stanley Rosenberg stated he was looking forward to the day when pay equity was not a goal but an accomplishment.
Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo maintained Pay Equity is a about dignity and respect.
Treasurer Deborah Goldberg spoke about of fairness, history and initiatives to ensure pay equity in the Office of the Treasurer. She recently created the Office of Economic Empowerment.
Auditor Suzanne Bump noted that Congress had passed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009 to allow women who experienced pay discrimination to file a complaint, but three successive U.S. Congresses have failed to pass the Pay Equity Act.
Senators Patricia Jehlen, Karen Spilka and Linda Dorcena Forry and Representatives Jay Livingstone and Ellen Story called for action in all 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts to close the pay gap sooner than the currently estimated 2058. They called for wage transparency and the tools to measure and close the gap.
The final speaker representing the business community was Kip Hollister, Founder and CEO of Hollister, Inc. and Member of the Board of Directors for the Alliance for Business Leadership. She echoed all that had been said: pay equity is good for women, good for families, good for men, good for business, and good for Massachusetts.
Written by Caucus Intern Palma McLaughlin