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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Equal pay for equal work?

Today is Equal Pay Day, which is a symbolic reference to the number of days into a new year that women have to work before earning what men earned by Dec. 31. A new study by the American Association of University Women reports that one year after college graduation, women earn 80 cents for every dollar earned by men. The association has reported that the “usual suspects” such as occupation, hours and care-giving responsibilities account for only 15 cents of that gap.

Sadly, the income gap doesn’t change with a higher level of education, for instance, a J.D. The study shows that by 10 years after graduation the pay gap had grown to 31 cents on the dollar, with 12 of those cents unexplained.

That’s consistent with the most recent American Bar Association statistics, which show that in 2002 women lawyers earned 69.4 cents on the dollar compared to men but by 2005 that gap had shrunk to a still unacceptable 77.5 cents. (ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, 2006).

In Minnesota, says the AAUW, women earn 77 percent of men do when both are college-educated and working year round. This puts Minnesota 15th in the country in terms of its pay gap.

There has got to be a solution to this situation, which is why I am encouraged to see the Minnesota Legislature dig the notion of “comparable worth” out of the 1970s archives and consider applying it to entities doing business with the state. The bill has passed the House and may be heard in the Senate finance committee this week.

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