What Equal Pay Day Means for Every New Jerseyan

More than fifty years after the passage of the Equal Pay Act, women are still paid less than men in every industry, in nearly every occupation. This is true for working women regardless of their education, income, or work experience. The average woman working full-time in New Jersey earns 80 cents for every dollar earned by a man. For women of color, that gap is even larger: African-American women earn 58 percent and Latino women earn 43 percent of what white men earn. Altogether, this pay gap amounts to nearly $16 billion in total lost wages each year for New Jersey.

I have consistently reiterated my commitment to fight for equal pay for equal work. New Jersey cannot achieve equal pay without aggressive reform, which is why I will push for stronger equal pay protections and promote greater pay transparency. I will sign legislation that ensures equal pay for equal work, and strengthen penalties to tackle wage discrimination. And I will end the practice of employers asking job applicants for their salary history — a practice that has kept women, and particularly women of color, in a wage hole out of which they cannot climb.

But I know the work does not stop there.

Women are the primary breadwinners in over 400,000 New Jersey households. They drive our economic growth, making up nearly half of our labor force, and own over 270,000 businesses in the state that create hundreds of thousands of jobs and generate tens of billions in economic activity.

Despite the enormous strides women have made, New Jersey’s policies have failed to keep pace. Women continue to face structural barriers holding them back in the workplace. They are also more likely to be concentrated in low-wage work, struggling to make a living wage. And despite their growing participation in the workforce, women still bear a disproportionate burden of caregiving responsibilities.

So when I say “equal pay for equal work,” I also mean:

Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, which will boost wages for over 500,000 women in New Jersey and improve the lives of the men, children, and families who depend on the economic contributions of women.

Creating a child and dependent care tax credit to help families burdened by child care costs. Over 400,000 New Jersey children under six live in families in which all parents work. Access to affordable and high-quality child care is crucial to women’s abilities to secure and maintain employment.

Expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which lifts more than 150,000 working families out of poverty each year in New Jersey, including 80,000 children. The EITC is one of the most effective tools to encourage work while bolstering economic security for women and their families.

Guaranteeing paid sick leave for all workers so that no parent would ever have to choose between caring for their sick child and keeping their job. This common sense policy isn’t just good for workers; it’s good for our businesses and our economy.

It’s time our policies reflect the value we place on women’s work. As governor, I will invest in our women and girls, and put equity and opportunity for working women at the forefront of my economic agenda.