Gender pay gap must be closed

Published 9:02 pm Thursday, May 19, 2016

To the editor:

I love Virginia. And I love envisioning the New Virginia Economy that enables Virginians to have equitable opportunities for a quality education, quality healthcare, quality jobs and equal pay for equal work.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, women make up nearly half the work force. They are significantly contributing to our workplaces and our economy, yet collectively they are not earning equitable salaries.

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In 2014 U.S. women working full-time jobs earned only 79 percent of what men made in the same positions. African-American women earned 64 cents, and Latina women earned 56 cents for every dollar earned by Caucasian men in the same positions.

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 requires that men and women in the workplace be given equal pay for equal work. And the Virginia Equal Pay Act “prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on sex when paying for work that requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility and that is performed under similar working conditions.”

In Virginia, we must proactively address the gender “pay gap,” because it creates a critical deficiency within our economy. It is not fair, and it is not a good business practice. However, if we work on solutions, together we can ensure that the New Virginia Economy is a reality and that Virginia is effectively positioned for the future. 
How do we move in the right direction? We can start with an assessment of pay. Then, let’s define clear pay structures; provide more pay transparency in the workplace; and conduct periodic pay reviews.

These small steps will help us target where pay gaps exist. We can then begin partnering with employers to establish action plans to close the gaps. 
We cannot allow this to be a future Virginia issue. It must be addressed today. The sooner we can close the gap, the sooner we will see the realization of the New Virginia Economy that attracts and sustains an effective, diverse workforce.

Michael Hamlar