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Equal Pay Still Decades Away for Kentucky Women

Women on average earn less than their male counterparts, a gap that's even wider for women of color. (Pixabay)
Women on average earn less than their male counterparts, a gap that's even wider for women of color. (Pixabay)
April 10, 2018

FRANKFORT, Ky. – It takes women about 15 months to earn what men earn in 12 – but pay inequality is not the only discrepancy Kentucky women face in the workplace.

Today is Equal Pay Day, symbolizing how far into 2018 a woman would need to work order to make the same amount a man did in 2017. Data from the U.S. Census show the 2018 wage gap between women and men is about 20 percent.

President of the National Organization for Women, Toni Van Pelt, explained that pay inequality impacts women through their entire careers – affecting vacation time, retirement savings and other aspects of life.

"Equally as important is that if women are kept in a state of constant economic insecurity, they are more liable to feel that they must put up with sexual harassment and sexual assault, in the workplace and in their education," Van Pelt said.

According to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, women in Kentucky who work full-time have median annual earnings of about $36,000, which is 80 cents on the dollar compared with their male counterparts. If current trends continue, the wage gap in Kentucky will not close until the year 2066.

Van Pelt noted the pay gap is worse for women of color, with black women earning just 63 percent of what their white male counterparts are paid, and Latino women just 60 percent. She added she is troubled by how slowly the gap is narrowing.

"When we first started talking about this, the average, full-time working woman was earning 59 cents, on average. So, in 55 years, it's only closed by 18 cents," she said. "That's a rate of less than half a penny a year."

In addition to addressing the pay gap, Van Pelt feels strongly that employers need to ensure women are treated with respect and not discriminated against during pregnancy.

"Also after the child is born, or if there is a catastrophe in the pregnancy, that these things are taken into consideration," she explained, "that pregnancy is not treated as a disability for women, but as a natural part of life that should be recognized in the workforce."

With increased awareness, more companies are stepping up and exposing pay disparities between male and female workers.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - KY