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Equal Pay Day: Getting Michigan Women's Wages "Out of the Red"

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PHOTO: Women are not worth less. That's the message supporters of equal pay legislation will once again bring to the Michigan Capitol today, wearing red to symbolize the fight to get women's salaries out of the red. Photo courtesy of Michigan Equal Pay Coalition.
PHOTO: Women are not worth less. That's the message supporters of equal pay legislation will once again bring to the Michigan Capitol today, wearing red to symbolize the fight to get women's salaries out of the red. Photo courtesy of Michigan Equal Pay Coalition.
 By Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI, Contact
April 14, 2015

LANSING, Mich. - It will be a sea of red Tuesday at the Michigan Capitol, as organizations from across the state rally together and wear scarlet to denote the fight to get women's wages "out of the red."

Tuesday is Equal Pay Day, which symbolizes how far into 2015 women must work to earn what men earned in 2014.

Mary Pollock, on the board of the National Organization for Women, says equal pay is not just an issue for Michigan women - it's about ensuring the state's economy works for everyone, particularly since women now account for nearly half the workforce.

"Many of those women are supporting themselves and their children, and they need equal pay and need it now," she says. "It is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in their total lifetime income not to be given equal compensation."

Legislation has been introduced in Lansing that would strengthen the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to make it clear that gender-based wage discrimination is illegal under Michigan law, and to foster greater accountability and enforcement of the issue.

Supporters will take part in a briefing on pay equity legislation at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, followed by a 1 p.m. rally in the Capitol Rotunda.

On average, Michigan women earn 77 cents for every $1.00 that men earn, according to a new report from the Institute for Women's Policy Research. Some believe the comparison is flawed, since women often take time off to raise children. But Pollock says there's too much secrecy surrounding wages, and adds that women aren't asking for any kind of special treatment.

"The jobs that women hold need to be paid commensurate with the skill, effort, responsibility, working conditions, and training required in those jobs," she says.

Pollock says some ground can be gained by steering girls and young women toward higher-paying careers, particularly those in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or so-called STEM fields.

"Even in those jobs and even right out of college, the wage discrimination starts right there," she says. "Just getting women into those non-traditional jobs will help improve their particular situation somewhat, but it will not close the entire gap."

According to the study, Michigan currently ranks 36th in the nation for pay equity. At the current rate, it is forecast Michigan women will not achieve pay equity until the year 2086.

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