Berkshire Eagle: Massachusetts treasurer hopes new tool will raise awareness of gender pay gap
Apr 12, 2016
"Wage equality is not solely a women's issue, it's a family issue and affects the economic health and well being of our entire state," the treasurer said. "When women are paid as much as men for equal work, we all benefit."
By Colin A. Young State House News Service
BOSTON - A 35-year-old woman working in the business and financial operations sector will miss out on more than $400,000 in earnings over the next 30 years of her career that a man in the same job would earn.
The $416,000 the woman will not earn due to the gender pay gap would be enough to buy 301,087 cups of coffee, or to attend every home Boston Red Sox game for 98 seasons, or to rent the median-priced two-bedroom apartment in the Boston area for 13 years, according to an online tool unveiled Tuesday by Treasurer Deborah Goldberg to make the extent of the gender pay gap better known, and to connect business with government to close the gap.
The website, www.EqualPayMAcom, provides a calculator which uses age and occupation to detail the wage gap for a specific worker and to determine the total lifetime lost wages due to the gap. It also allows visitors to send an anonymous email to their employer asking that they take action to end pay disparities.
“I got a sneak peak at the wage gap calculator and I was pretty horrified by what I learned,” Attorney General Maura Healey said. “But it is such a neat and nifty tool and a real terrific way to raise consciousness and awareness.”
Goldberg convened a breakfast seminar of business leaders and politicians on Equal Pay Day, set on April 12 to signify the point in the year “women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year,” according to the National Committee on Pay Equity.
Goldberg said she hopes the site – which includes a toolkit for employers who want to close wage gaps among their employees – will empower women and men to work to end the pay gap. “Wage equality is not solely a women’s issue, it’s a family issue and affects the economic health and well being of our entire state,” the treasurer said. “When women are paid as much as men for equal work, we all benefit.”
According to the Massachusetts chapter of the National Organization for Women, women who work full-time earn approximately 80.8 percent of what men who work full-time earn, and lose a combined total of $12.2 billion annually due to the wage gap.
A study from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research reported that the state’s earnings ratio places Massachusetts in 18th place nationally for pay equity and, without changes, the state’s wage gap is expected to persist until 2058.
The House has a bill before it (S 2107) that further defines “comparable work,” outlaws employers from forbidding employees to discuss their salary with other employees, increases the fine for pay equity violations from $100 to $1,000, and requires employers to post a notice to employees of their rights under the act.
The bill passed the Senate unanimously on January 28 and Sen. Karen Spilka on Tuesday morning challenged those in attendance to lobby their representatives in the House to follow suit. “The time is now. I mean, if we don’t pass it this year,” Spilka, the chairwoman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said. “Contact your state rep, we need to get this done now. Raise the equal pay bill, make sure the House passes it, make sure the governor signs it.”
The conference, though, did not focus solely on the role of government in addressing the wage gap. Keynote speaker John Fish, chairman and CEO of Suffolk Construction, said his company had conducted an internal salary comparison and took other steps to ensure female employees were being paid equitably.
“At Suffolk, we chose to look ourselves in the mirror and take action. And the return on that investment was immeasurable,” Fish said. “We don’t claim to have all the answers, but we have taken real strides to make a real change. If not us, who? If not now, when? We took responsibility and action.”
But, Fish said, Suffolk is but one company with 1,750 employees nationally and it alone can not tackle the “colossal consequences” he said the gender pay gap will have on the country and the world.
“My friends, we need collectively, all, to solve this catastrophic problem of inequality. Today, we live in a global economy and if we don’t resolve this we will lose, the United States of America will lose, our competitive advantage,” he said. “We are literally not tapping into 51 percent of our talent. Think about that and imagine if we’re able to leverage that. Our economy, our future, our grandchildren’s future depend on this.”
Goldberg last week was focused on helping people manage their finances. The treasurer and Citizens Bank announced that 17 nonprofit organizations in Massachusetts will receive $512,000 as part of the Citizens Helping Citizens Manage Money financial literacy and education initiative.
Supporters of that initiative say only 35.5 percent of households have three months’ worth of expenses saved and Massachusetts is one of 12 states that does not require financial education for students.
“Massachusetts citizens are walking a financial tightrope and are in need of the basic necessities that can help them become financially successful,” Citizens Bank Massachusetts President Jerry Sargent, said in a statement. “Through our Citizens Helping Citizens Manage Money program, we are working together with state and nonprofit organizations to empower our fellow citizens with the knowledge and resources they need to budget, save, invest and be fiscally healthy.”
Following a competitive application process, organizations funded through the initiative include the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center Inc., Crittenton Women’s Union, Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts Inc., HAPHousing in Springfield, Lawrence CommunityWorks, and The Midas Collaborative Inc., The Neighborhood Developers, uAspire Inc. and the United Way of Massachusetts Bay, Inc., all in Boston.
Michael Norton contributed to this report.