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Viewpoint

Paycheck fairness bill needed even in 2014

You would think by now, an equal day’s work would mean equal pay for all workers regardless of gender, but sadly it’s still not always the case.

That’s why I was proud to sponsor Senate Bill 207, the N.H. Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill which passed unanimously in the State Senate, and that Governor Maggie Hassan signed into law earlier this month. This is one of the most significant pieces of legislation for women in New Hampshire’s workforce in over a decade.

According to the United States Census Bureau, New Hampshire women working full-time, year round earn 77 cents for every dollar paid to comparable male workers. That means, if you are a woman earning the New Hampshire median wage, you are losing roughly $11,000 a year to pay inequality. Median income data shows that women face a pay gap in nearly every occupation.

From elementary and middle school teachers to computer programmers, women are paid less than men regardless of employment in those fields we think of as “female-dominated” or “male-dominated” occupations.

According to a recent study, which looked at the earnings of women and men one year after college graduation, just one year out of college, women working full-time were paid on average just 82 percent of what their male peers were paid. In the most recent year for which data are available, the study found that among business majors, for example, women were paid just over $38,000 while men were paid just over $45,000. That means recent female graduates are making 84 cents for every dollar their male counterpart makes.

This is true in many occupations; among teachers, women were paid 89 percent of what men were paid. In business and management occupations, women were paid 86 percent of what men were paid; similarly, in sales occupations, women were paid just 77 percent of what their male peers were paid.

Think about that for a second if you have son and daughter. If they both graduated with a business degree, your daughter would make less than your son. This is important because it’s not like our daughters get to pay less of their student loan payments, or rent, or even for groceries at the store.

Senate Bill 207 is designed to remedy that, by updating state law to eliminate loopholes, increase transparency in wages, and ensure that all workers have the appropriate tools and resources to help them earn a fair and equal paycheck, without fear of retaliation.

It has been five decades since President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Women in the workforce have made tremendous strides since then, and we have indeed “come a long way baby.” However, data shows we are still not quite there. SB 207 brings us closer.

Senator Peggy Gilmour (D-Hollis) represents District 12 in the State Senate, which includes Brookline, Greenville, Hollis, Mason, New Ipswich, Rindge, and Wards 1, 2 and 5 in the City of Nashua.

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