LETTER: Equal Pay Day encourages shrinking the wage gap

Tuesday, April 12, 2011 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

April 12 is the national observance of Equal Pay Day, when women and men recognize the wage gap between them. The U.S. Census Bureau found in 2010 that, on average, women are paid 77 cents for every dollar men make.

In Missouri, women's pay doesn't even measure up to the national average — just 75 percent of men's pay.

The National Committee on Pay Equity outlines four ways to close the gap:

  • First, keep affirmative action programs in place to make sure education, jobs and promotion opportunities are open to women.
  • Second, employers must examine and correct their pay practices. Employers can get help in examining their pay practices through equal pay self-audit guidelines from the U.S. Department of Labor.
  • Third, if a prospective employer cannot show that women and men are paid equally, look elsewhere. Positive signs include hiring processes that seek diversity through affirmative action and written pay and benefit policies. Women who are paid less must discuss this with their employer. If there's a union, women can ask for its help. If discrimination persists, employees can file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
  • Fourth, keep in mind federal legislation such as the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Fair Pay Act. For employers who continue to pay women less, legal penalties or EEOC action might be the only remedies.

Missouri House Bill 349, introduced by Rep. Stacey Newman, would require equal pay for equal work, establish a state commission to study wage disparity, and require employers to document their wages.

Jennifer Weisbrod is a senior at MU and an intern for state Rep. Stacey Newman, D-Clayton.

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Mark Foecking April 12, 2011 | 1:25 p.m.

While we must combat discrimination wherever we find it, a wage gap can exist for other reasons, and it matters a lot how one comes up with that number.

Averages can be deceiving. If some higher paying professions are dominated by men (as they still are), then even if pay for the same work is equal within any given field, the averages will show that men make more.

To have that number mean anything, the census would have to compare salaries field by field, and also control for variables like seniority (women tend to take more time off from their careers for family reasons). I suspect, if that were done, the numbers would be a lot closer.


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