Say it with me: Equal Pay for Equal Work

Photo credit: Maria Civitate

Photo credit: Maria Civitate

I have never met a person who said, “I believe that my daughter or mother or sister deserves to earn less than men who do the same work because of her gender.” I’m glad because that person seems like a jerk. But, in the job market – consciously or unconsciously – this is precisely what happens.

Today, Governor Nixon promoted gender pay equity by signing Executive Order 15-09. The order directs state agencies to use guidelines to identify and address any gender wage gap. It also encourages private sector organizations to do the same.

To appreciate the significance of this announcement, it is important to understand the problem. Simply, women receive less pay for performing the very same tasks. In a study conducted by the University of Missouri Institute of Public Policy and prepared for the Women’s Foundation, researchers found that between 2008 and 2012, full-time, year-round female workers in Missouri earned 71 percent of men’s earnings. Imagine that a man and woman graduate from the same college, earn the same degree, and gain similar entry employment at comparable businesses. It is very likely that the woman will earn .71 cents for every one dollar earned by her male counterpart. This compounds over the years, meaning women miss out on huge potential earnings.

Bad for women, right? It also poses problems for the families who depend on that income, as well as the local communities and businesses where women spend money.

The Executive Order establishes guidelines to help employers address this problem. First, employers should determine whether a gender wage gap exists within their organization. If so, employers should re-evaluate their compensation system in order to create a structure that promotes equal pay for equal work. And organizational compensation should be transparent.

The order is a great development. Let me say this, though: it is not the greatest development. The order lacks teeth. It does not mandate that the private sector nor either of the other two branches of state government must adhere to this principle. There are no consequences for failing to meet outlined expectations.

I hope that this is just the first important step and that Missouri keeps working towards pay equity. I will keep up the fight.