Imagine what equal pay for equal work would look like. Last week, March 24th, was Equal Pay Day which recognizes the pay gap between working men and women. March 24th is the day into the year in which it takes women on average to earn what men did in 2020. This day is important. It is a reminder that women in the US make less than their male counterparts. In West Virginia it is 74 cents. West Virginia women are paid 74 cents for every dollar their male counterparts are paid. So basically, women work for 15 months for the same pay as men who work for 12 months. It does not have to be this way.
In West Virginia less money in women’s pockets has a significant ripple effect on our economy. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the poverty rate for women in WV would be reduced by one-third if they were paid the same as men doing the same work. The West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy estimates that working women in West Virginia lost out on $3.7 billion in 2017. With these lost earnings, on average, a West Virginia woman could put two years’ worth of food on her family’s table or pay the tuition for two years at a West Virginia community college for herself or one of her children. This is why it is essential that we adopt legislation to help eliminate the pay gap for West Virginia women and in turn contribute to West Virginia’s economy.
A step in the right direction is the support of the Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan Fair Pay Act and the Pay Transparency Act. These bills, named after two prominent West Virginians—of Hidden Figures fame– allows employees to discuss their pay with one another. Pay transparency helps assure women are not discriminated against. We must have policies that support pay equity, including pay transparency. These policies will make WV stronger and help grow our economy. Please contact your legislator and ask them to support these bills.