A set of Minnesota bills that aims to raise minimum wage, improve equal pay for women and protect paid sick leave rubbed a Republican state representative the wrong way at a hearing last week because, in her opinion, it made women “look like whiners.”
Kieffer isn’t the only female politician who wants to dissuade efforts to raise the pay gap. On Meet the Press last June, Tennessee Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn said women “don’t want” equal pay laws. Blackburn had previously voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and Paycheck Fairness Act in 2009.
While Kieffer did not respond to requests for comment, advocates for equal pay pushed back against her comments.
“She’s talking about legislation that keeps putting us backwards in time, and I feel like legislators like her puts us backwards in time,” said Lisa Maatz, Vice President of Government Relations at the American Association of University Women (AAUW). “At the end of the day there is empirical analysis, statistics up the wazoo, there is in fact a pay gap.” Even when controlled for part time work and jobs requiring less experience.
According to the AAUW, a gender wage gap still exists in all 50 states. In Minnesota, women make 80 cents for each dollar men make.
“Over the typical woman’s life, she loses about $500,000 in earnings compared with a typical man (and that’s assuming she works full time every year),” Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, told TIME in an email. “This means her family has a lower standard of living, she may not be easily able to pay rent and college or other education costs for her children, and may not be able to save for retirement.”