The pay gap between full-time working men and women is real. The figures come from the Department of the Census’ Current Population Survey and median figures are calculated across all occupations for full-time workers. It varies by state, locality, occupation, age, and other factors, but it is always there. For example, nationally the pay gap is 20% (earnings ratio 80%), but in Florida the pay gap is 13%. More information can be found on the AAUW and Institute for Women’s Policy Research websites.
Many factors influence the pay gap, including women’s choices. But two studies have looked at full-time employed college graduates one year out and at the workforce in general, and after controlling for everything known to affect pay, a 7-8% unexplained gap was found.
The pay gap is an important social problem. Lower pay for women affects families as well as single women; half of American families include a woman earning at least 40% of the household income. Closing the pay gap would reduce poverty in Florida by more than half . In Florida, 25% of family households headed by a woman without a husband present are living in poverty. At higher income levels, closing the pay gap would boost women’s influence. The pay gap is larger in terms of percentage in the “professions” and management. It’s not just money. Women may be encouraged or required to accept positions that do not lead to advancement (sometimes called “mommy tracking”). This contributes to the lack of women in corporate leadership.
Several initiatives have been proposed to close the pay gap. Women can be encouraged to choose more lucrative occupations, usually those dominated by men. But several studies have found that as more women enter an occupation, wages go down for both genders. Women have been shown to be more reluctant to ask for raises or negotiate salary, but when they do, they risk being labeled as difficult.
Legislative remedies at the national level, such as the Paycheck Fairness Act, have stalled, so advocates are promoting remedies in several states. In Florida, the Helen Gordon Davis Fair Pay Protection Act, SB 594/HB 393 , has been filed by Rep. Lori Berman and Senator Linda Stewart. Similar to last year’s version, which was never even heard in committee, it provides the following protections:
- Employers can’t retaliate against individuals involved in legal proceedings to enforce the law
- Employers can’t retaliate against employees who discuss wages
- Employers can’t reduce another employee’s pay to comply
- Employers can’t request salary history
- Employers can’t provide less favorable career opportunities based on sex
In addition, employer defenses are clarified: they must be job-related and agreement for a lesser wage is not a defense. The law, if passed, would apply to all employees including those covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (which has fewer protections).
The first step is to contact the following legislators and ask them to schedule HB 393 for consideration because:
- The pay gap is real, and found in all industries and locations.
- The pay gap is significant for women and families. Closing it would reduce poverty in Florida by half.
- HB 393 will help to close the pay gap. It prohibits practices that make the pay gap worse. Stopping the practices of requiring applicants to submit prior salary history and of penalizing employees who discuss their salaries would help both women and men.
Rep. Halsey Beshears, chair of the Careers and Competition Subcommittee: (850) 717-5007, Halsey.Beshears@myfloridahouse.gov
Richard Corcoran, Speaker of the House: (850) 717-5000 Richard.Corcoran@myfloridahouse.gov