The efforts of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., to close the gender wage gap were the subject of a telephone media conference she held Tuesday.
The gap could be closed in part by increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, Gillibrand said, and other measures to ensure more working women have a fair shot at earning a salary equal to their male counterparts.
The conference call was timed to coincide with Equal Pay Day, the day in 2014 women must work to match what their male counterparts earned in 2013, according to Gillibrand.
While women on average earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns, women of color earn even less — 69 cents for African Americans and 58 cents for Latinas, Gillibrand said.
Hartwick College economics professor Carlena K. Cochi Ficano said the gap in pay is a problem in all communities in the country. Progress was made on the issue until approximately 2000, but since then it has leveled off or declined, she said. Efforts such as Gillibrand’s make sure people remain aware that the gap persists, Ficano said.
The difference between salaries earned by men and women is small until the childbearing years, Ficano said. About 60 percent of the difference is related to different career paths as women try to balance work and family — this includes working part time and leaving the labor market temporarily to raise a family. Another 30 percent results from the difference in occupations in which men and women find themselves, in part by choice and in part out of necessity, to achieve the same results. The balance can be attributed to discrimination, Ficano said.
Gillibrand discussed the Paycheck Fairness Act, which builds on the promise of earlier laws by empowering women to negotiate for equal pay, closing loopholes courts have created in earlier legislation and creating strong incentives. The Minimum Wage Fairness Act would increase the minimum wage to $10.10 in three 95-cent increments over a three-year period, and to keep up with the rising cost of living, the wage would be indexed to inflation. Senate action on the two issues is expected within the next month.
Other efforts in Gillibrand’s American Opportunity Agenda, are also a key pieces of the puzzle, Ficano said. This includes making affordable child care accessible, and creating paid family and medical leave.
In Otsego County, 4,483 households are wholly or partially dependent on a woman’s earnings, according to statistics Gillibrand provided. The estimated wage gap between genders in the same job is $115, and the number of women who would benefit from a minimum-wage increase is 2,700.
“Women are the primary income earner for a growing share of homes across America,” Gillibrand said. But since almost two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women, “even after working full time they are bringing home a paycheck that keeps their family below the poverty level. It’s time to give America’s women a fair shot,” she said.