Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Women. Worth an average 23 cents less than men.

Rep. Cindy Evans, a longtime advocate of women's rights, gave a floor speech in session reminding colleagues that today is Equal Pay Day, a public awareness event that illustrates the gap between men's and women's wages. On this day everyone is encouraged to wear red.

This is what she had to say:

Time For Equality
By Rep. Cindy Evans

My fellow Legislators…

Today is Equal Pay Day. Equal Pay Day was originated by the National Committee on Pay Equity in 1996. RED is worn on Equal Pay Day to symbolize how far women are "in the red" with their pay.

Observed on a Tuesday in April, Equal Pay Day symbolizes how far into the year a woman must work, on average, to earn as much as a man earned the previous year. In fact in general Tuesday is the day on which women's wages catch up to men's wages from the previous week. The gap between men's and women's wages is real and well documented.

We've come along way. It's hard to believe, but in 1932 the Federal Economic Act was passed to ban the wives of federal employees from holding government positions. The act also declared that women with employed husbands be first on the lists for firing. Two years later in 1935 the National Recovery Act officially required women who held jobs with the government to receive 25 percent less pay than men in the exact same job.

The “Equal Pay Act of 1963’ was supposed to rectify this disparity.

I'm pleased to note there has been progress….

*Women’s wages have risen in all states since 1989.

* Women with four-year or graduate college degrees have almost achieved parity with men.

* Today Hawaii ranks 12th in states narrowing the gap and received an honorable mention from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in 2006-2007 for our state’s progress in addressing the equal pay issue. In 2005 the Hawai'i state legislature passed ACT 35 promoting equal pay for equal work in Hawaii nei.

But 40 years after the Equal Rights Amendment we are not there yet. Today millions of women still struggle to make ends meet while doing the exact same jobs as men under similar working conditions with equal skill, effort and responsibilities, while earning less.

Since 1995, the poverty rate among women in 15 states has increased. At our present rate of progress it will take 50 years for women to achieve earnings parity with men.

The work to solve wage inequity must continue and the message to the next generation of women wage earners is…don’t rest on the work done by those before you. Working towards equal pay is the right thing to do!

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