It is unfortunate that in 2017 we are still discussing equal pay for women, yet here we are. The American Association of University Women just released its latest study, which breaks down the gender pay gap not only by state but also by congressional district. Indiana and the 3rd Congressional District (Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana) ranked extremely poorly when it comes to equal pay for equal work, and it's time we change that.
Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the study ranks Indiana 46th when it comes to women receiving equal pay for equal work, and the 3rd District ranks fifth out of nine in the state. Nationally, women are making 80 percent of men's earnings for the same work, but here in Indiana, women earn just 74 percent of what men make for the same work. For women of color and working moms, the gap is even worse.
The gender pay gap is found in almost every field regardless of industry or education level. In male-dominated professions (software designers and truck drivers), gender-neutral professions (food service managers and financial managers), and female-dominated professions (social work and nursing), men are paid more than the women they work with for doing the same jobs.
While women's income is lower, our cost of living is the same. The rising cost of higher education has created a huge burden for anyone trying to further their career to achieve the American dream, but imagine how much harder achieving that dream is when you are paid 26 percent less than your male counterparts.
As for the millennials who are so important to the future of our workforce? Bloomberg recently published an article based on findings from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that shows the gender pay gap is widening for women 25 to 34. For that age group, women are experiencing the widest gap in median weekly earnings in the past seven years.
Pay inequality isn't just a women's issue; it is a family issue. Recent research has found that 50 percent of households with children include a mother who is either the sole or a primary earner for her family. America has become a nation where most households depend on two incomes to get by. Pay equity is not just a matter of fairness but the key to families making ends meet. That means that supporting equal pay is not only good for Hoosier families, but it's also good for the Hoosier economy.
During my tenure at the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, we were hyper-focused on the need to raise the per capita income in our region and the need to attract the talent that our companies so desperately need. If we paid women equally for their work, this would naturally lift our per capita income. And, if we showed the rest of the country that we believe in paying women fair wages, that could go a long way in attracting the best and brightest women to our workforce.
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 has been the law for more than 50 years, and yet the pay gap persists. That means, clearly and simply, that current legislation is not getting the job done. It's time for new federal legislation that effectively eliminates these discriminatory practices once and for all. While new legislation has been proposed, Congress has failed to pass anything. Opponents of new legislation claim there isn't a problem.
Even after adjusting for external variables including college major, occupation, economic sector, hours worked, marital status, maternity and geographic region, the wage gap persists. Women are paid less than men for doing the same exact work, across all racial and ethnic groups, in every state. That's not just unfair, it's just plain wrong.
Women deserve better, but that's unlikely to happen without equal representation where it matters most. Women make up 51 percent of our country's population and yet make up only 18 percent of the House of Representatives. I'd like to change that. That's just one of the reasons I am running for Congress here in Indiana's 3rd District.
It's time we had a representative in Congress who supports all residents of northeast Indiana, not just a select few.
Courtney Tritch is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Indiana's 3rd District congressional seat.