A closer look: Pennsylvania’s gender pay gap

In nearly every field of work, women are paid less than men. Women also pay more for a lot of things.

Caryn Hunt is like many women. She juggles a job and a family, and she’s tired of women being stuck in the gender pay gap.

“As many, many women, I’ve experienced these biases myself,” Hunt said. “I want to make sure that my daughter doesn’t experience them.”

A study by the American Association of University Women shows women in Pennsylvania make 79 cents to every dollar a man makes. In every Midstate county, it’s even less. It may be only cents to some, but not to Hunt.

“Over a lifetime of pay discrimination, it adds up to pretty big money,” Hunt said.

Hunt is the president of the Pennsylvania National Organization for Women. She said there’s no excuse for a gender pay gap.

“It’s not that women are choosing jobs that pay less. It’s that jobs where women are are valued less, so they’re paid less,” she said.

When women have children, Hunt said many receive a “mommy penalty.”

“For every child that they have, their earnings go down, basically because their promotions slow down,” Hunt said.

Men often get a “father bonus.”

“He’s going to need to stay on this job and we’re going to reward him, and he’s going to want to work harder to support his family,” Hunt said. “It’s just bias. It’s plain and simple bias that a lot of people just aren’t even aware of.”

For women of color, the gender pay gap is even wider.

Not only are some women earning less, we also pay more for a lot of services and products.

“Women pay more for clothes. Women pay more for makeup and skin care products and stuff like that,” Hunt said.

ABC 27 News did an experiment and found a lot of women’s products cost more than men’s.

For the same brand of razors, the women’s cost $1 more than the men’s.

A side-by-side comparison of soap revealed the men’s cost 34 cents less than the women’s.

For covering up those grays, women’s hair dye costs $1.90 more than the men’s.

“There’s no excuse for it,” Hunt said, “and the only way that’s going to change is by continuing to talk about it and continuing to elect people who see it that way, too.”

State Senator Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin/Perry) sees it that way.

“We want to make sure we’re empowering people to exercise their rights to pursue that difference,” Teplitz said.

Teplitz introduced Senate Bill 303. He said it would strengthen Pennsylvania’s current pay equity law, which was last updated in 1968.

“To make sure that if employers are treating genders differently for the same job in terms of pay that there’s a rational reason for that, that there are differences in education or training or experience that would justify that difference in pay,” Teplitz said.

The bill would also prohibit pay secrecy in the workplace.

“So that a woman can find out she’s being paid less and she has the legal rights to pursue that in court,” Teplitz said.

There’s a similar bill in the House of Representatives. Both are in committee.

Teplitz and Hunt will keep pushing for change.

“It’s just a matter of fundamental fairness,” Teplitz said. “When we get into the issue of the fact that many of the most vulnerable households in our commonwealth are headed by women, we want to make sure that they’re being paid fairly.”

“Issues that affect women affect families, which means they affect communities, which means they affect our whole society,” Hunt said. “If we just all become more aware of the bias, the inherent bias that we all have, really, that’s how it starts to change.”

For the AAUW report on the gender pay gap, visit http://www.aauw.org/research/the-simple-truth-about-the-gender-pay-gap.

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