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Bill Ending Gender Wage Gap Approved By Assembly [AUDIO]

Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

Women in New Jersey still make less than men these days…but a bill in Congress, if approved, would change that.

Today the state Assembly Women and Children committee approved a resolution urging Congress to pass the “Paycheck Fairness Act” in order to provide women with more tools to achieve pay equity in the workplace.

Testifying in Trenton, Terry Boyer, executive director of the Rutgers Center for Women and Work said 60% of working mothers bring in a majority of their households income these days.

“Although New Jersey may have higher median incomes than the rest of the nation…our costs of living are offsetting that..and womens’ wages become a key factor in keeping New Jersey’s working families afloat.”

Boyer cited financial data showing that the gender earnings gap has a significant impact on working women in the state over their lifetime.

“Its $415,000 for a woman with their high school degree in New Jersey and $798,000 for a woman with their bachelor’s degree or higher…that’s a lot of money they could have invested in caring for themselves or their loved ones.”

As a group, full-time working women in New Jersey lose about $15 billion each year due to the gender income gap.

The Paycheck Fairness Act, which passed the House of Representatives in January 2009 but never cleared the U.S. Senate, was reintroduced in 2010 and aims to strengthen current laws against wage discrimination and provides tools to enable the federal government to be more proactive in the fight. Among other things, the Paycheck Fairness Act would also close a significant loophole in the Equal Pay Act to allow for full compensation for sex-based wage discrimination.

“In 2012, women are still earning roughly 77 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earn,” said Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt, the bill’s sponsor. “That’s an archaic sounding statistic reminiscent of the struggles women faced toiling in factories in the early 20th century. Letting this pay inequity stand essentially sanctions discrimination against women in the workplace. Congress let the opportunity slip out of its hands last session. We can’t let that happen again.”

Lampitt noted that 2009 U.S. Census Bureau data shows that full-time, year-round female workers earned 23 percent less than their male counterparts. Furthermore, minority women fare significantly worse with median earnings for African American and Hispanic women working full-time, year-round far less compared to their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts.

“Surprisingly, the gender income gap is largest in high paying occupations and women who graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree earn far less than their male colleagues just one year out of college, with the pay gap widening 10 years after graduation,” added Lampitt. “This becomes an even bigger problem given the fact that two-thirds of American families rely on a woman’s wages for financial security. What kind of message does this send to young girls growing up today? I would like to see my daughter enter the workforce knowing her work is valued equally through equitable compensation.”

The measure cleared the Assembly Women and Children Committee, which Lampitt chairs, and now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.

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