Equal pay for women? Pa. falls woefully short

Tuesday, April 12, marks the national observance of Equal Pay Day, the day when women and men around the country recognize the wage gap between working women and men, and offer remedies to address pay inequity. According to statistics released in 2014 by the U.S. Census Bureau, women are paid, on average, 79 cents for every dollar their male counterparts are paid – a gap of 22 cents.

It's shameful, but here in Pennsylvania women's pay doesn't even measure up to the national average. Women are paid about 77 cents on the dollar compared to men according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Women and their families are being shortchanged thousands of dollars a year and hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of a lifetime, according to a press release from the Chester County Fund for Women and Girls.

Here are four ways to close the pay gap:

First, keep affirmative action programs in place to make sure education, jobs and promotion opportunities are open and offered to qualified women.

Second, employers must examine and correct their pay practices; they can get help in examining their pay practices through equal pay self-audit guidelines from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Third, women must stand up for equal pay and for themselves. If a prospective employer cannot show that women and men are paid equally for the job you're seeking, it makes sense to look elsewhere. Positive signs includes a hiring process that seeks diversity through affirmative action, written pay and benefit policies, job descriptions and evaluation procedures. Women who are paid less than men must discuss the problem with their employer. If there's a union, ask for their help. If discrimination persists, file a complaint with the local or state Fair Employment Practice Agencies or with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

A fourth way to close the pay gap is through federal legislation such as the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Fair Pay Act. That's not a solution popular with employers, but it may be necessary. For employers who continue to pay women less, legal penalties or EEOC action may be the only remedies.

Pay equity is a growing national movement. States around the country are introducing pay equity legislation and women continue to recognize the importance of this legislation. Pay inequity penalizes families especially during times of economic hardship so we must address it when trying to boost the economy. At the rate we are going, the wage gap will not close for another 50 years. Women and their families cannot afford to wait that long, the release said.

The Chester County Fund for Women and Girls is about to release the 2016 Blueprint Report on Thursday, May 12 at the State of Women in Chester County. The purpose of the report is to provide community stakeholders with a comprehensive and objective assessment of the current status of women in Chester Count and offer insight regarding how the interests of women can be better served.

The State of Women in Chester County will be held in partnership with the Chester County Women’s Commission and will be hosted by Penn State Great Valley. The event is free but seating is limited. To register, click here.

The Chester County Fund for Women and Girls is a grant-making and education foundation dedicated to addressing the needs of women and girls in the county. For more than 18 years, the fund has raised awareness about the critical needs of women and girls, and has awarded over $2 million to 65 nonprofit organizations. To learn more, visit www.ccfwg.org.

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