Close wage gap for state’s women, families

The Hawaii Equal Pay Day analysis shows there is a toll that’s being paid by women and families for the gender wage gap in the Aloha State.

Here, briefly, are some key points of what it would mean if the gap were closed:

• Hawaii women could afford food for one more year;

• More than three additional months of mortgage payments;

• More than five additional months of rent;

• More than eight additional months of child care annually.

The analysis released for Equal Pay Day on Tuesday revealed the size of the gender wage gap and its detrimental effects on the spending power of Hawaii women.

It is significant.

Women employed full time, year-round in Hawaii are paid 84 cents for every dollar paid to men, amounting to a yearly gap of $7,640, according to the analysis. That means Hawaii women lose a combined total of more than $2.5 billion every year – money that could strengthen the state economy and is especially significant for the more than 52,000 Hawaii households headed by women, 17 percent of which are in poverty.

We all know women have proven themselves as strong and smart and determined, as if they ever had to. They did that long ago, but just never got any credit for it, and accepted it.

No more.

They have taken the lead in many areas around the nation and are at the helm of some of this country’s most successful companies and agencies. Here on Kauai, we know how many sharp, dedicated women there are, not just in the business world, but in the community, at home, at school and at the many fundraisers that go on.

But the issue raised here is, and highlighted by this analysis, that women still aren’t paid as much as men, the only reason being, they’re women.

This is wrong and must change.

“Equal Pay Day is a painful reminder that women in this country have had to work more than three months into this year just to catch up with what men were paid last year,” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership. “This analysis shows just how damaging that lost income can be for women and their families, as well as the economy and the businesses that depend on women’s purchasing power.”

Lawmakers, Ness said, have not done enough to end wage discrimination or to advance the fair and family friendly workplace policies that would help erase the wage gap.

That could be. But they are working toward it. And, as much as it’s not fair, it can take time to get something like this turned around.

The numbers show we have a ways to go. In some areas, a long ways.

Nationally, women who hold full-time, year-round jobs in the United States are paid 80 cents for every dollar paid to men.

Black women are paid 63 cents and Latinas just 54 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.

White, non-Hispanic women are paid 75 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.

Asian women are paid 85 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, although some ethnic subgroups of Asian women fare much worse.

And mothers with full-time, year-round jobs are paid 70 cents for every dollar paid to fathers.

Hawaii is not the only state with a wage gap. In fact, every state and 94 percent of the country’s congressional districts have one.

Numerous studies show that the wage gap persists regardless of occupation, industry, education level or perceived personal choices.

Ness is right when she says we need a set of public policies that ensure women have access to good and decent-paying jobs, the support they need to stay and advance in their careers, and fair and nondiscriminatory treatment wherever they work and whatever jobs they hold.

That means fair pay and practices, family friendly workplace standards, full funding for federal agencies that investigate and enforce fair pay, and comprehensive reproductive health care.

Women are rising up and taking the lead. They will continue to do so, and should be fairly compensated for their talents, not held back because of gender. If anything, this country needs to follow the advice and wisdom of women.

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