Gender equity sought

Supporters rally at Equal Pay Day at the Missouri capitol
Wednesday, April 20, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:19 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

A crowd of about 15 people rallied in support of equal pay for men and women at the Capitol on Tuesday. The rally, which recognized Equal Pay Day, was attended by elected officials, representatives for Missouri women’s rights groups and concerned citizens.

Most of those in attendance wore red clothing to symbolize that salaries for women are “in the red” compared with salaries for men. They also passed out PayDay candy bars to legislators to symbolize the need for pay equity.

Women in Missouri make 79.1 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earn, which is slightly higher than the national average of 77.6 cents, according to the AFL-CIO.

Mary Mosley said she can’t afford to make only 80 percent of what men do. Mosley, whose husband recently became disabled, is the primary source of income for her household.

“This is such an important issue because it affects families,” Mosley said. “It is not like women are greedy and want more money. We want to support our families.”

Kerri McBee, director of the Alliance for the Status of Missouri Women, said inequitable pay for women needs to be addressed.

“It is an issue that has been relevant for years,” McBee said. “We have gotten better, but there is a significant number of females in the work force still being discriminated against.”

State Sen. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis, sponsored Senate Bill 199, one of the two bills in the state legislature that would require companies to give equal pay to employees that do the same job. Bray said the bill has received little attention from her colleagues in the Senate.

“It is a pretty simple concept, but we can’t seem to get it done,” Bray said.

Proponents of equal pay said educating the public is important.

“Raising awareness is a really good first step,” said state Rep. Judy Baker, D-Columbia. “We have also been working resolutions to get the facts out on how women are discriminated in wage and salary structure.”

Although the rally was not overwhelming in numbers, McBee said the group delivered its message.

“We didn’t anticipate that we would get thousands of women out here. Most of them are at work,” McBee said. “We are going to get as many women as we can and educate the legislators on the inequalities in pay.”

The rally was sponsored by The Alliance for the Status of Missouri Women, Missouri Women’s Network and the Business and Professional Women of Missouri. It was one of a series of events held across the state and the nation in recognition of Equal Pay Day.

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