With women making 78 cents to the dollar for men performing the same work, there’s still a long way to go before equal pay becomes a reality. But, as several female politicians noted on Tuesday, one of the biggest barriers to equal pay is a lack of transparency.
Speaking on a conference call hosted by EMILY’s List, a group working to elect more Democratic women, female lawmakers talked about the steps they’ve taken towards equal pay. Even once gender-based discrimination laws are passed, they can be hard to enforce in the private sector where wages aren’t publicly available.
Gina Raimondo, the first female governor of Rhode Island, established an equal pay tip line this year for people to confidentially report employers that aren’t complying with Rhode Island’s equal pay law. The tips then allow the state Department of Labor and Training, which runs the line, to investigate the employers and enforce the law.
“Equal pay for equal work is good for women, but it’s good for our economy and it’s good for all hardworking families,” Raimondo said. “Families are increasingly relying on a mom’s wages and work to make ends meet.”
Erin Murphy, a Minnesota state representative, also worked to pass measures that would increase transparency to enforce equal pay. As Majority Leader in her state legislature in 2014, she helped pass the Women’s Economic Security Act, aimed at improving working conditions for women. Among other measures, the act contains a provision that allows employees to “voluntarily discuss their compensation without fear of retaliation from their employers.”
Murphy says this communication is a key component of achieving equal pay. “We made headway in Minnesota. But we have many, many steps to go, and one of the important ways we can continue to make progress is talking together,” she said.