In the second of our weekly series this month in honor of Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting Mississippi’s persistent problem with its gender pay gap.
During the 2017 legislative session this year, a bill seeking to end unequal pay for Mississippi’s women enjoyed hearty bipartisan support, including State Treasurer Lynn Fitch, representatives Becky Currie, Carolyn Crawford, Sonya Williams-Barnes, senators Tammy Witherspoon and Sally Doty. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant spoke in support of having a real conversation on the issue.
It seemed that the time to begin improving women’s economic security had finally arrived in the Magnolia State, especially since the state is only one of two in the country – the other is Alabama – who has not addressed the issue.
But self-defeating habits among some lawmakers at the Mississippi State Capitol resulted in the bills dying in committee.
At MLICCI, we’re unwavering in our bid to close the gender pay gap in Mississippi and determined to ensure that this year’s actions by a few may delay, but not deny what should rightfully happen in this state. We’re so invested that we launched the Mississippi Women’s Economic Security Initiative more than a year ago with the goal of building power and grassroots leadership to push for a bold women’s policy agenda. These matters are far too important to the women, their families, communities and the entire state to back down now.
Here are a few facts about Mississippi’s gender pay gap:
- In Mississippi, women overall earn on average $0.75 for every $1 men earn. A mom who works full-time, year-round in Mississippi earns just $0.67 for every $1 earned by a dad working full-time. Over a 40-year career, the average woman in Mississippi will lose $375,000 because the state lacks basic protections ensuring equal pay for equal work (National Women’s Law Center.)
- Differences in education and experience do not explain Mississippi’s wage gap among full-time, year-round workers. While higher education and technical training are key to increasing women’s economic security, they alone will not close the wage gap. For example,
- In 2015, women with a high school diploma and no college earned on average $20,436 compared to men with the same level education who earned on average $31,921.
- Women with a bachelor’s degree working full-time, year-round earned on average $35,298 in 2015, compared to men with the same level of education that earned on average $50,472 (2015 American Community Survey, 1-year.)
This year’s proposed legislation would have helped the state take a great leap forward by addressing the disparities between pay for men and women and also sent a message to the rest of the nation that Mississippi isn’t comfortable always being on the bottom when it comes to legislation to benefit its citizens.
Specifically, the legislation would have prohibited wage discrimination on the basis of gender by:
- Requiring women to be paid equally for comparable work
- Protecting the seniority of women who take leave due to pregnancy or family and medical emergencies
- Ensuring higher-paying jobs offered by the same employer are equally accessible to women
- Prohibiting employers from denying employees the right to openly discuss their own wages with colleagues, co-workers or supervisors; and,
- Prohibiting employers from seeking the wage or salary history of a job applicant as a condition of employment
Yes, the time has indeed arrived for women to be paid equal pay for equal work. And it’s winding down for those who would deny this important economic benchmark for Mississippi’s women. Making Mississippi’s women secure changes everything!