Today's Equal Pay Day rally in Lansing brimmed with hope and renewed energy behind a set of bills that are, unfortunately, as old as the hills.
I dug up a 2001 Michigan Daily article quoting Alma Wheeler Smith and Gilda Jacobs and outlining new bills that would make pay discrimination a civil rights violation and establish a pay equity commission. A spokesperson from the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Nancy McKeague, argued that women are already protected against discrimination by federal and state laws, and additional legislation isn't needed.
This year, we have virtually the same story at mlive.com, with the conservative Mackinac Center for Public Policy commenting in place of the Chamber, and a third bill that would require employers to provide employees with wage information for those in similarly situated jobs. (House Democrats today introduced HB 4516, HB 4517, HB 4518 and HB 4519.)
Same arguments. Another dozen years, and women's wages have moved in Michigan from 67 cents on the dollar to 74 cents. Michigan's pay gap still ranks among the nation's worst.
So how do we more quickly move the needle? For starters, it would help if everyone was pushing it in the same direction.
For instance, we all agree that a woman's choice to raise a family affects her career and wages. We agree that fathers devoted to their careers may have to sacrifice time with their children. So let's create a work culture that values families and eliminate the penalties on both sides.
Since federal and state laws that address pay equity already exist, we agree the government has a place in ensuring fairness in the workplace. So let's examine what about that existing legislation isn't working.
And let's take a deeper look inside ourselves, to make sure we're really pushing that needle as hard as we can. What keeps us from steering our daughters into STEM (science, tech, engineering and math) careers when they show an interest? What holds us back from speaking up, from negotiating hard for ourselves? What can we do to improve the culture in our own workplaces?
With a gain of only 7 cents in 12 years, Michigan's pay gap is a stubborn and complex problem with no easy solution. But we should never stop working to find it.
-- Joni Hubred-Golden