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MI Women Still Working for Less; Pending Legislation May Help

April 12, 2011

LANSING, Mich. - There are laws and lawsuits, rallies and protests, but still, women in the workplace make less money than their male counterparts, and the wage gap is increasing. Today is Equal Pay Day, symbolizing how far into 2011 women must work to earn what men earned just in 2010. On average, Michigan women earn almost 30 percent less than men in similar jobs, and the state ranks 47th in pay disparity.

State Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) is tracking four bills that would strengthen the Michigan Civil Rights Act, increase penalties for gender-based wage discrimination, and set up a pay equity study commission. Another would give workers more information going into pay negotiations.

"We've set up a piece of legislation to protect people's privacy, to redact personal information, but to make it more accessible; how much others in the company or others in that particular agency are making for what job category."

New Bureau of Labor statistics show that out of 111 job categories, women are paid less in 107 of them. In recognition of Equal Pay Day, organizations including the National Association for Women Michigan chapter are holding an event at the State Capitol.

Sixty-two percent of women in Michigan are working. Warren says that ultimately, pay equity is important to not just women, but also families.

"Where you're adding an additional salary to a partner who already makes one or you're the only one bringing home a salary, bringing home only 71 cents on the dollar to what a male would bring home really does have a very detrimental impact, as women try to pay for groceries and put boots on the kids."

Studies show that when young women leave college, they lag behind men in pay even on their first jobs. Warren says many women in the workplace lack mentors who can help teach negotiating strategies. She says more transparency about pay ranges would also help women better understand the value of a specific position.

Amy Miller/Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - MI