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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Equal Pay Discussion Panel: Wage Gaps Among Women

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Equal Pay Coalition Discussion Panel

On March 21, the John W. McCormack Graduate School’s Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy (CWPPP) hosted a panel to discuss the Equal Pay Bill passed last summer. On the discussion panel was Charlotte Golar Richie, the moderator of the event. Richie is currently the Vice Chair of the CWPPP Advisory Board and is also a former Civil Rights Commissioner and former State Representative. Along with Richie was Ann Bookman, who is currently the director of the graduate program.
Beth Williams was also on the panel, the president and CEO of the Roxbury Technology Corporation. Genevieve Nadeau, the Chief of the Civil Rights Division and a member of the Office of the Attorney General was also present along with Nina Kimball, a founder of Kimball Brousseau LLP, a boutique employment law firm. Kimball was also involved in drafting the Equal Pay Bill. Migdalia Diaz was also welcomed, who is currently the Chief Operating Officer of ALPFA Inc. The event was held in the ballroom of the campus Center at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Both graduate and undergraduate students attended.
The Equal Pay Coalition has hosted various events on campus and in the city of Boston to promote open discussion about the bill. This time, members of the panel expressed concern about the existing wage gap between women of different backgrounds.
The existing wage gap has been proven to exist by statistics. According to the panelists, it has been shown that nationally, on average, white women earn 80 cents for every dollar that an average white male earns. African American women trail behind earning 63 cents and Latina women earn 54 cents.
The statistics in Massachusetts are similar to the national average, but as Bookman said, “[earnings are] worse for women of color.” In Massachusetts, white women on average earn 81 cents for every dollar a white male earns, African American women follow at 61 cents, and Latina women earn 50 cents.
“50 cents, half of your pay—that figure just always shakes me,” Bookman added.
Williams, who worked at Blue Cross Blue Shield before Roxbury Technology, stated that when running her business at the time, she paid her employees above the minimum wage.
“I wanted my employees to have a living wage,” she said.
According to Kimball, for the bill to tackle these issues it needed a “comprehensive approach” with the help of the Women’s Bar Association and Mass Now, who also contributed to the passing of the bill last summer.
The Equal Pay Bill, signed by Governor Charlie Baker, was designed to narrow the wage gap between men and women and now, as stated, among women as well. According to Bookman, employees can be transparent about their salary with colleagues, employers can no longer ask salary history when hiring, and companies will have the legal obligation to review salary paid to its employees. More specifically, the law states that “comparable work” should not be defined only by job title or description to determine equal salary, but it is also required under the law that comparability can be defined if employees are under “similar working conditions.”
“I would say the most controversial part of the bill is prohibited salary,” said Kimball. Jill Ashton, the director of the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women said that ultimately, narrowing the wage gap will be a benefit for the state.
“This is good policy, for the state, employees, and businesses,” Ashton said.
The law will officially take effect on July 18, 2018.