Wage gap costs Wisconsin women $14 million annually

Photo Courtesy of Wisconsin State AFL-CIO

Photo Courtesy of Wisconsin State AFL-CIO

Adam Pearson, Writer

Before the world flipped upside down, Wisconsin Democrats were fighting for the state’s women via the reintroduction of the Equal Pay Enforcement Act and the Equal Pay Transparency Act, put together by Rep. Christine Sinicki (D-Milwaukee) and Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay).

According to statistics released by the Census Bureau in 2018, Wisconsin women make up nearly half of the state’s workforce. With 66 percent of adult women working, Wisconsin ranks third in the country for share of women in the state workforce, yet women in Wisconsin are only making 78 cents for every dollar a man makes doing the same job. This pay gap equates to the average full-time, year-round working woman making nearly $11,000 less than the average full-time, year-round working man annually – meaning Wisconsin women are losing a total of $14 million each year.

The National Partnership for Women & Families posted an article on WisconsinGazette.com flirting with the idea of what Wisconsin women and their families could do with lost money if the gap was closed.

The article estimates, “If it were closed, on average, a woman working full time in Wisconsin would be able to afford 81 more weeks of food for her family, more than eight additional months of mortgage and utilities payments, 1.2 additional years of tuition and fees for a four-year public university, the full cost of tuition and fees for a two-year community college, nearly 14 more months of rent or more than 13 additional months of child care each year.”

While the gap has gotten smaller in recent years (from 71 cents for every dollar in 2004 and 75 cents in 2009), progress was stunted in 2012 when then-Governor, Scott Walker, “quietly” removed the penalties for employers not paying employees equally by repealing the Equal Pay Enforcement Act from 2009, which Hansen and Sinicki are now trying to pass back into law.

The Equal Pay Transparency Act is designed to protect employees wanting to have voluntary discussions regarding compensation from employers trying to block such dialogue. The act also prohibits employers from requiring applicants to include their compensation from past jobs.

As it stands today, these acts have yet to be passed into law. Which begs the question: When will Wisconsin women finally get the compensation they have earned? The answer, Wisconsin Public Radio estimates, is 2067.