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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, April 10, 2018 1:00 am

Editorial

A woman's work

Equal Pay Day especially relevant to Hoosiers

Falling behind

A gender wage gap exists in every state, but the full-time salaries of Indiana women compared with those of full-time male workers represents a wider gap than found in any of our neighboring states.

Indiana..................................$12,717

Ohio.......................................$11,477

Michigan...............................$11,044

Illinois................................... $11,003

Kentucky.................................$9,262

Source: National Partnership for Women & Families; US Census Bureau

There might come a time when it's not necessary to highlight Equal Pay Day as a call to erase the gender wage gap, but we're not there yet. That's especially true in Indiana, where the difference between men's and women's full-time earnings is the sixth largest in the nation. In the 3rd Congressional District, women earn just 74 cents for every dollar men earn.

The analysis by the National Partnership for Women & Families notes the detrimental effect on spending power. If Indiana women earned the same as their male counterparts, the additional money in their paychecks would cover the average monthly cost of child care for 16 months.

Another analysis – this one by the American Association of University Women – ranks Hoosier women 46th in the nation for paycheck equity. 

“Existing Indiana law is weak when it comes to equal pay,” according to the AAUW report. “Several bills were introduced during the 2018 legislative session, but none moved forward, marking yet another squandered opportunity to make the lives of women better and more equitable.”

House Bill 1390, sponsored by Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, would have made it illegal to pay wages that discriminate on the basis of gender for substantially similar work. It would also have prohibited employers from requiring workers to sign a wage nondisclosure agreement. 

The bill was never called for a hearing. The same fate awaited HB 1344, Indianapolis Democrat Robin Shackleford's bill requiring an employer to provide reasonable accommodations for an employee with a condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.

It's not for a lack of time. While ignoring legislation that might allow Indiana women to improve their economic status, legislative leaders always find time for bills aimed at restricting reproductive rights. 

Indiana's policies explain its continued poor performance on a state ranking for work and family policies – dead last among the states and the District of Columbia. Lack of support for paid leave, elder and dependent care, child care and state-supported preschool push Indiana to the bottom.

When Indiana lawmakers talk about jobs and economic development, they inevitably focus on tools other states use to draw investment. But their toolbox full of tax credits and other incentives never seems to include the family-friendly policies that have long been in place elsewhere. Instead, the General Assembly has pursued education reform efforts that have contributed to the wage gap. Indiana teachers, in a field where women are well represented, watched their wages decline by 15 percent between 2000 and 2017, according to figures from the National Center for Education Statistics. That's the steepest decline in the nation.

On this Equal Pay Day, consider the long-term consequences for Hoosier women, children and the state overall. Then consider what it will take to push the General Assembly to turn its attention to policies to stem the economic decline.