It was a historic week in Congress; for the first time in nearly 60 years, the House passed legislation to ensure that women are paid equally.
We know the statistics painfully well. Women who work full time, year-round are paid 80 cents for every dollar men are paid. The wage gap widens when factoring in race. White women earn 77 cents on the dollar. Black women earn only 61 cents, Native American women make 57 cents, and Latinas just 53 cents. Certain groups of Asian women fare even worse.
In a year, the 20 cent difference results in a $10,169 gap. This gap makes a big difference in the lives of American families as women’s wages are key to America’s economic security. In half of all U.S. households with children, mothers are the primary or sole earners, and unfortunately, over 1 in 4 female-led households fall below the poverty level.
Part of equal pay is shedding sunshine on salaries. The salaries of public employees are routinely published in Massachusetts. This often leads to necessary conversations and changes. The Paycheck Fairness Act will no longer let salary inequalities be protected by secrecy. This bill uses the power of transparency to root out inequality.
When I ran for Congress, I campaigned on improving economic opportunities for women and families. After my election, the first bill I cosponsored in the House was the Paycheck Fairness Act.
Five years later, as part of the House Democrats’ For the People Agenda, the House passed the Paycheck Fairness Act. It will enhance remedies for gender-based pay discrimination, strengthen penalties for violations, prohibit retaliation for wage disclosures, and authorize the Department of Labor to seek punitive damages.
By closing the wage gap, we are putting the nearly $500,000 women lose over the course of their careers to wage discrimination back into their pockets. We are unleashing women’s economic potential, a force that equals $900 billion a year. That’s $900 billion that can uplift American families and help them save for an education, a home, or retirement.
When the Paycheck Fairness Act becomes law, women across the country can finally experience something that has been withheld for far too long: fairness.