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I understand the barriers women face to achieve success in male dominated professions.  As one of too few women serving in the General Assembly in Pennsylvania, and the only women representing the Greater Pittsburgh area in the State House, I understand the pressure and the high expectations we put on ourselves to do well and succeed.  This is absolutely one of the reasons so many of the women I know are of the most driven and dedicated professionals in their field.  Women are increasingly becoming the primary breadwinners in households, and graduating with higher degrees at a greater rate than men.  Times have changed, but pay discrimination has not.

Despite all of this great progress toward dignity and respect for women, it is still too often that I hear stories from my constituents about not being hired or getting passed over for promotions and raises due to their gender.  Some of these women I have gotten to know.  They work hard, yet do not receive the appropriate compensation for their work—pay based upon education, training, and experience.

In Pennsylvania alone, there were over 3,400 employment discrimination claims in the latest reporting year. On average, a Pennsylvanian who received monetary compensation from a claim got barely over $500. This is unacceptable.

Women shouldn’t be making an average of 77 cents for every $1 a man makes in Pennsylvania. Latino women, a growing demographic in our state and the future of our workforce shouldn’t be making nearly HALF of what a white man makes in Pennsylvania.

I have been lucky enough to be employed in settings that have valued my hard work and rewarded it. The same cannot be said for the thousands of women who are denied promotions or aren’t hired because of an anarchic way of thinking.  Even more egregious than this discrimination, however, is the difficulty women face when they try to speak out about it.  In our state there is a secretive nature regarding salaries.  At some companies individuals can be punished for disclosing pay information or even attempting to find out the salaries of others, making it ever harder to build their case.  Women should be able to easily identify when they are being discriminated against and have accessible avenues for redress of damages that does not require expensive legal proceedings.

It is time to address pay inequity.  We must guide all sectors toward pay fairness for all workers and provide the tools necessary for woman to earn what they deserve.

My fellow state legislators across the country need to move forward with proposals that update equal pay laws.  In 2014, it is our obligation to make it harder for companies to pay women less. We must make it easier to file claims and retain attorneys, increase the minimum wage, and ensure access to paid sick and safe time, because this doesn’t just effect the women in our lives.  These policies strengthen our families, our communities, and improve our economy for everyone.

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