Today, April 2, 2019 is Equal Pay Day, a day that symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year.
Women currently make up nearly half of Connecticut’s workforce and are a growing number of breadwinners for their families, but continue to earn significantly less than their male counterparts.
On average, women in Connecticut are paid 83 cents for every dollar paid to men. The wage gap is more staggering for women of color: Black women are paid 57 cents, Hispanic women are paid 47 cents, and Asian women are paid 80 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.
The gender wage gap persists, in part, because women continue to shoulder the majority of caregiving responsibilities in their families: women comprise 60 percent of caregivers in our country and spend an average of 24 hours a week providing care, often in addition to a full-time job.
Equal Pay Day exposes the high cost women in our state and across the country continue to pay without access to paid family and medical leave when they need to take time away from work to care for a sick loved one, or welcome a new child. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, over a 15 year period, women are paid just 49 cents to the typical man’s dollar– in large part due to time spent out of the labor force.
Research shows that women’s earnings drop 4 percent with each child they have. In the year following birth, however, new moms who take paid leave are more likely to stay in the workforce and 54 percent more likely to report wage increases.
Access to paid leave also equalizes and encourages caregiving by men, a long neglected but critical piece of the pay equity puzzle. When fathers take paid leave, their involvement at home increases: fathers who take two or more weeks after the birth of a child are more involved in that child’s direct care nine months after birth than fathers who do not take leave.
In November, Connecticut voters took a firm stand in support of paid leave when they elected candidates, including Governor Lamont, who included the issue as a central piece of their campaign. Five months later, voter support hasn’t wavered. Today, a new poll indicates 88 percent of voters – including 78 percent of Republicans – support paid family and medical leave.
Connecticut is now surrounded by states that have passed paid family and medical leave. Four in five voters agree that to remain competitive in our region and attract the best and brightest employees, we must pass our own paid leave policy.
The data is clear: Connecticut workers need – and overwhelmingly support – paid family and medical leave. Real paid family and medical leave is publicly administered, accessible, and inclusive of all Connecticut workers. This program will be good for business, for the economy, and for families.
Later this year we will observe Black Women’s Equal Pay Day in August and Latina Women’s Equal Pay Day in November – in recognition of how far into the year it takes for the earnings of Black and Latina women to reach the earnings of white men from the previous year. I hope we can honor these dates with something actually worth celebrating: the passage of one of the strongest paid family and medical leave laws in the country.
Connecticut women don’t deserve anything less.
Kate Farrar is Executive Director of the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund.
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