Guest Commentary: Georgia Women Deserve Equal Pay

October 2017 in , ,

By: Representative Park Cannon, Georgia

I grew up in a single parent home shaped by domestic violence. My mother worked as a pharmaceutical representative to keep us fed. We needed every penny she earned so that we could stay afloat. Many Georgia families know what it’s like to grow up struggling. They understand hardships. They also know, often from deep personal experience, that every family needs employers to pay women what they deserve.

Recent analysis by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) reveals that many women don’t receive a fair day’s pay. Even after all these years, the gender pay gap sits at 20 cents. This means, on average, women working full time take home 80 cents for every dollar men make. In Georgia it’s not much better. On average, women here only make 82 cents for every dollar a man makes.

Black and Latina women face an even larger pay gap. On average, they only make 63 and 54 percent of what white men are paid, respectively. Compared to white women, Black and Latina women are disproportionally more likely to work in low paying but demanding jobs, such as the service industry. This worsens intergenerational poverty, and helps explain why the wealth gap between black and white families continues to grow. How will we ever reach economic parity when black women continue to make less money than we’ve earned? Closing the gender and racial pay gaps is one of the most important civil rights struggles of our generation.

After graduating from college, the pay gap makes it harder for women to pay off their higher average college loan debt. While working, the pay gap makes it more difficult to afford day-to-day expenses. And in retirement women are penalized because they have been unable to save as much or invest in future opportunities. Throughout a woman’s life, this lost income amounts to hundreds of thousands of forgone dollars.

If we do nothing, the gender pay gap won’t close until 2119. That’s too long for families struggling to get by. We need a real solution to end the gender pay gap and help Georgia communities in a meaningful way.

The Georgia Pay Equity Act, a bill I sponsored, would protect Georgia’s women from discrimination. The bill would move us closer to guaranteeing that every woman receives the compensation she deserves. It does this by prohibiting employers from using a job applicant’s prior salary to determine their future pay, and by protecting workers who discuss their earnings from retaliation. Not only will this bill help women to advocate for themselves, but it will enable employers who are trying to do the right thing to actively and meaningfully work to prevent discrimination in their offices. It’s a win-win for workers and employers.

Georgia’s women deserve this law. When I was a child, my family needed these protections. Today, our communities still need them. It is now more important than ever to ensure that your local representatives continue the fight for pay equality. Make sure they are still listening to you by encouraging them in support of the Georgia Pay Equity Act.