My Plan for Equal Pay

Kamala Harris
May 20 · 4 min read

My mother, Shyamala, had two goals in her life: to raise her two daughters and end breast cancer. She was one of the first women of color to have a position as a scientist at the University of California, Berkeley. As the daughter of a working mother in a male-dominated field, I know the fight to be treated equally in the workplace has persisted for generations.

Women who work full time in America are paid — on average — just 80 cents for every dollar paid to men. And for women of color, the gap is even wider. For Latinas it’s 53 cents, for Native American women it’s 58 cents, and for Black women it’s 61 cents. This adds up to more than $400,000 over the course of a woman’s career, and more than $1 million for Latinas, Native women, and Black women.

We can fix this. I’m proud to announce that our campaign is unveiling a historic plan to help close the pay gap between women and men by forcing corporations to be accountable for equal pay.

Our plan will finally put the burden of ensuring equal pay for equal work on the corporations responsible for pay gaps between women and men — not the women employees who are experiencing discrimination.

We can ensure women earn the wages they deserve by forcing companies to step up, holding them accountable when they don’t, and committing as a nation to ending pay inequity once and for all.

Here’s how we’ll do it:

Companies will be required to obtain an “Equal Pay Certification” and prove they’re not paying women less than men for work of equal value.

To receive certification, companies must demonstrate they have eliminated pay disparities between women and men who are doing work of equal value. To the extent pay disparities do exist for similar jobs, companies will be required to show the gap is based on merit, performance, or seniority — not gender.

But it’s not just unequal pay for similar work that drives the wage gap. Too often, women are passed over for promotions, not hired for senior roles, or are prevented from advancing due to the time they take off to care for a new child or ailing parent. These are forms of systemic pay discrimination too, and we need to shine a light on them.

That’s why under our plan, companies will be required to report statistics on the percentage of women in leadership positions and the percentage of women who are amongst the company’s top earners. They will also be required to report the overall pay and total compensation gap that exists between men and women, regardless of job titles, experience, and performance. These statistics will be reported by employees’ race and ethnicity.

Companies will be fined 1% of their profits for every 1% wage gap they allow to persist for work of equal value.

Companies that fail to receive “Equal Pay Certification” will face a fine for every day they discriminate against their workers. For every 1% gap that exists after accounting for differences in job titles, experience, and performance, companies will be fined at 1% of their average daily profits during the last fiscal year.

Our plan is estimated to generate roughly $180 billion over 10 years.

Fines will be invested in building on universal paid family and medical leave.

We must address the systemic inequalities that drive the pay gap, including the wage penalty women pay when caring for a new child or a sick parent. On average, women receive a 4% pay cut for each child they have, compared to men who receive a 6% pay increase. The lack of paid leave — for women and men — is a major driver of the wage penalty.

America is the only industrialized nation in the world that fails to guarantee our workers any type of paid family and medical leave. That needs to change. That’s why, as president, I will fight for the FAMILY Act to provide workers with up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. Fines collected under our plan will help build on the FAMILY Act, increasing the percentage of wages workers receive when taking time to care for themselves or a loved one.

Companies will be required to disclose whether they are “Equal Pay Certified” on the homepage of their websites.

Compliance reports will be posted publicly on Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) website. These reports will empower individual employees to assess where they fall on their company’s pay scale and as in the UK, allow the public to hold corporations accountable for pay gaps.

To ensure equality in all workplaces, we’ll overhaul anti-discrimination laws and expand investigations of complaints to secure justice for victims of discrimination.

The wage gap isn’t just a number: It’s the countless women across America who have been the target of discrimination. We need to support them in every workplace, no matter the size. Under our plan, we’ll significantly strengthen and expand anti-discrimination protections to ensure all workers, no matter the size of their employer, are covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.


The wage gap between men and women in our country has barely budged this entire century, and the burden for ensuring equal pay has often fallen on workers — requiring them to hold employers accountable for pay discrimination through costly lawsuits that are increasingly difficult to prove. This is wrong.

Together, we can flip the script by placing the burden squarely on the corporations responsible for pay inequity and radically change the way we enforce equal pay in America.

Thanks for joining me in support of our new plan to help close the wage gap.

For The People,

— Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris

Written by

U.S. Senator and candidate for president. Wife, Momala, Auntie. Fighting for the people. No corporate PACs, just people like you. Text JOIN to 70785 to join us.