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Task Force on Equal Pay for Women: Montana Needs Culture Change

Gov. Steve Bullock's Equal Pay for Equal Work Task Force offers stickers to businesses to display when they pledge to close the gender pay gap. (Equal Pay for Equal Work Task Force)
Gov. Steve Bullock's Equal Pay for Equal Work Task Force offers stickers to businesses to display when they pledge to close the gender pay gap. (Equal Pay for Equal Work Task Force)
September 19, 2016

BUTTE, Mont. - The Equal Pay for Equal Work Task Force meets at Montana Tech in Butte today to discuss strategies for closing the gender pay gap in the state.

The task force was first convened by Gov. Steve Bullock in 2013. Co-chair Sheila Hogan, director of the Montana Department of Administration, said one focus of the meeting will be a "Paycheck Fairness Act," which the group hopes will pass during the next Montana legislative session. A version of the act failed to pass in 2015.

"If this bill passes, it would allow employees to talk about wages and there would be no retaliation," Hogan said. "Some organizations do not necessarily like people talking about wages."

The task force also is offering a primer for private businesses that would like to audit themselves and assess whether they have gender or race disparities in their own compensation structure. Montana women make 67 cents for every dollar men make. The state is ranked 45th in the nation in terms of pay equity for women who work year-round and full-time.

Along with advocating legislation, the task force also provides wage negotiation classes for women and encourages them to explore jobs in the STEM fields - science, technology, engineering and math. Hogan said more than 150 businesses from across Montana have signed a pledge with the task force dedicating themselves to closing the gender wage gap, and hopes it's the beginning of a culture change in the Treasure State.

"It shows leadership on their part," she said, "and, quite frankly, I want to support those businesses that support me as a woman, and support my children."

Hogan said women can call a confidential hotline at 1-844-550-FAIR if they feel they aren't being compensated fairly.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT