Today is Equal Pay Day, which signifies how far into 2018 the average woman must work to earn as much as a man earned in 2017.

Every year, Black and Latina women must work even longer to earn as much as their male counterparts. Black Women’s Equal Pay Day won’t arrive until August. Latina women must wait until November to achieve men’s earnings from the previous year.

Equal Pay Day exists because women in our country – and our state – do not receive pay equal to their male counterparts. According to the National Women’s Law Center, Connecticut women typically earn 79 cents to every dollar paid to men. This inequity is significantly larger for women of color like me: Black women in Connecticut make 58 cents and Latina women make 47 cents for every dollar paid to white men.

The discussion of compensation at work remains taboo in many workplaces and women of color often lack the social capital to risk challenging the value placed on our labor.

Women lose an estimated $418,000 over the course of a 40-year career to the gender wage gap. Again, these losses are greater for women of color. For Black women, career losses are $840,040 and for Latinas, the losses exceed $1 million.

Lost wages mean women have less money to spend on necessary household items, contribute to the economy and save for retirement or emergencies. Lost wages also prevent women, who are the co- or main breadwinners in close to two thirds of families with children, from achieving economic security and keeping their families financially afloat. A lack of economic security also prevents women of color in particular from lending our voices to movements that seek to challenge the status quo.

But there’s good news. Until the legislative session ends on May 9, the Connecticut General Assembly has the opportunity to take action to combat the gender wage gap here in our state.

A bipartisan group of legislators, with support from advocates, introduced H.B. 5387 and S.B. 15 to prohibit employers from inquiring about a potential hire’s salary history. When an employer asks an applicant’s salary history, they unknowingly continue a cycle of lower earnings that may have begun with just one discriminatory pay decision, conscious or not, much earlier in an applicant’s career.

In an interview or job application, if a potential employee is forced to reveal their previous earnings, the employer may give them a higher salary than their last job but lower than the salary range of the position. This is especially true for women, who earn significantly less than their male counterparts just one year after graduation.

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides voiced support for the bills before the Labor Committee in March. “This is about fairness, about making sure people doing the same work get equal pay,” she said.

These initiatives follow the lead of several major municipalities across the country, as well as Massachusetts, Delaware, Oregon and California. Removal of the salary history question in the hiring process has also become common practice among large corporations, including Amazon, Facebook and Google.

If women received equal pay, the United States economy would produce additional income of $512.6 billion, which represents 2.8 percent of 2016’s gross domestic product (GDP). It’s simple: pay equity is good for women and families and is critical to the wellbeing and competitiveness of Connecticut’s economy.

Without action, the gender wage gap in Connecticut is not expected to close until 2058. Women in our state simply cannot wait for pay equity. By the time Black Women’s Equal Pay Day arrives in August, I hope we can celebrate the bipartisan passage of pay equity legislation this year.

Ashika Brinkley is a Board Member of the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF).

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