Guest Blogger: State Rep. Ray Dehn On Progress On Pay Equity In Minnesota

The following blog post is authored by Minnesota State Rep. Raymond Dehn (Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party – Minneapolis).

Architecture is known as a male dominated profession. And like other professions, it harbors disparities between men and women – an unacceptable fact that many people like you and I are working hard to change.

When I was in college studying architecture years ago, I saw the evidence of this problem first-hand.

At the time, I was offered a part-time job at an architecture firm paying a wage of $6.00 per hour. I turned the offer down because I was already earning a higher wage at a different job. Two days later, one of my female classmates told me she was offered the same position I had turned down. However, the firm offered to pay her at a rate of only $5.00 per hour – a full dollar below the wage they offered me.

This example from my personal life illustrates the broader barriers to economic security facing women.

A recent study by the University of Minnesota’s Center on Women and Public Policy found that families headed by women are four times more likely to be living in poverty and that women earn a median pay of 80 percent of what men earn doing similar work in our state. For women of color, that disparity grows even larger. That’s just plain wrong. And it’s creating an unnecessary drag on our economy.

Fortunately, Minnesota’s state legislature and Governor are poised to make progress on closing the gender pay gap and a host of other issues to support women and their families.

The Women’s Economic Security Act is moving through the legislative process right now and is expected to be signed into law before the 2014 Legislative Session adjourns in May.

The Act’s top priorities include:

  • Closing the gender pay gap by requiring private businesses that contract with the state to report on pay equity within their workforce.
  • Increasing income for working Minnesotans and their families by increasing the minimum wage to $9.50 and tying future automatic increases to the rate of inflation.
  • Expanding access to high-quality, affordable childcare and strengthening workplace protections for pregnant mothers.
  • Enhancing protections for victims of domestic violence.
  • Encouraging women to enter non-traditional, high-wage jobs and support growth for women-owned small businesses.
  • Helping older women be economically secure.

As my colleague and chief author of the bill Rep. Carly Melin says, “when women have equal opportunities to succeed, it means stronger families, stronger communities and a brighter economic future for our state.”

I look forward to voting in support of the Women’s Economic Security Act and seeing it signed into law – and I am hopeful we can achieve the same success around the country.

Women and their families cannot wait any longer for progress. Let’s join together and make sure all Americans, regardless of gender or color or creed, have equal opportunities to succeed.