Maloney Calls for Measures to Close the Gender Pay Gap

May 20, 2015
Press Release
Decries Economic Price Women Pay for Having Children

WASHINGTON – Joint Economic Committee (JEC) Ranking Member Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) this week called on Congress to help close the gender pay gap by enacting legislation to raise the minimum wage, provide paid leave upon the birth or adoption of a child, ensure affordable day care and prohibit retaliation against employees who complain about gender wage discrimination.

In remarks before the Executive Women’s Council – established by JEC member Don Beyer (D-Va.) - Congresswoman Maloney noted that women’s median earnings are 78 percent of men’s, and that a gender pay gap exists at both the top and bottom of the pay scale.

“Our report shows that women’s role in the workplace has changed dramatically in recent decades,” Maloney said. “But the fact is that our economic policies have not always kept up.”

Following are the Congresswoman’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

Thank you all so very much for including me today with this remarkable group of women. And special thanks to Congressman Don Beyer for organizing this event. Don is an excellent, active and well-informed member of the Joint Economic Committee. I am enjoying having the chance to work with him.

I was pleased to see that Don’s invitation letter for this event mentions “the Woman Dividend.”

As Julie Bloecher and Kiersten Salander have just pointed out -- when it comes to business – having women on your board pays some very real dividends. For instance, according to research by the non-profit organization Catalyst: “On average, companies with the highest percentages of women board directors outperformed those with the least by 53 percent.” So - the “woman dividend” is not just a phrase – it’s a fact.

I am here today as the Ranking Member of the Joint Economic Committee – the JEC. I am proud that I was also the first female Chair of the Committee in 2009.The JEC was established by Congress to study and to provide information about the US economy. My staff and I strive to produce reliable, factual information that can help members of Congress craft better solutions to the problems facing American families today.

Just before Mother’s Day, the JEC released a report titled “How Working Mothers Contribute to the Economic Security of American Families.” The report found that there have been vast changes in the workplace over the past 50 years. For example, in 1965 only one-third of mothers worked outside the home. Today, more than two-thirds do. The study found that working mothers collectively brought home $960 billion in 2013. It also revealed that in a typical – median – family, a mother contributes fully 40 percent of her household’s income.

Families rely on this income! So making sure that women are treated fairly in the workplace isn’t just a women’s issue – it’s a family issue.

Our report shows that women’s role in the workplace has changed dramatically in recent decades. But the fact is that our economic policies have not always kept up.  Later this month, the Joint Economic Committee will release a report that looks more broadly at women in the workforce. It will explore difficult issues like the “Gender Pay Gap.”

In 1965, a typical – median -- woman earned 60 cents for every dollar earned by a man. And today - a typical woman working full time, year round - earns 78 cents for every dollar earned by her male counterpart. That’s an improvement – but that’s still a 22-percent “pay gap” - one that represents more than $10,000 annually to a typical woman and her family. If that pay gap did not exist, it could make a major difference in the life of an entire family. For instance, if that “missing” amount were deposited into a retirement savings account each year over the course of a 40-year career, a typical woman could accumulate an additional $1.8 million.

It’s important to acknowledge that there are a number of reasons why the gender pay gap might persist. For example, women tend to work in lower-paying fields. But in our study - the facts show – that even within the same occupation - women tend to earn less than men. Take nursing for instance. Our report will show that female registered nurses typically earn $150 less per week than their male colleagues. That’s a gap that adds up to $7,800 over the course of a year - enough money to pay for a year of community college. And that pay gap is there both at the top and the bottom end of the scale.

Some justify the Gender Pay Gap by pointing out that that women are more likely than men to interrupt their careers to care for their children or other family members. But even if you control for all measurable factors, a stubborn discrepancy in pay remains. According to a study conducted by the American Association of University Women – if you compare graduates of similar universities, with the same major, just one year out of school, working the same number of hours - women make 7 percent less than men.

We also find that women pay an economic price for having children. Working mothers earn 3 percent less than women without children. They pay a “mommy penalty.” Working fathers earn 15 percent more than men without children. They earn a “daddy bonus.” There is clearly something wrong with this picture.

So – what do we do?

First, the United States should join the rest of the civilized world and pass a measure guaranteeing paid leave.  No one in the most prosperous country in the world should have to choose between a paycheck and taking care of their family.

Second, let’s support policies that increase workplace flexibility for both men and women.

Third, we need high-quality, affordable childcare so parents can work while they raise their families.  This smart policy would pay long term dividends. A new study by Harvard Business School found that in the United States, the grown daughters of working mothers earned 23 percent more than daughters of stay-at-home mothers, after controlling for demographic factors,

Fourth, Congress should pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, building on Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that was signed into law by President Obama in 2009. The legislation would give women a fair chance to challenge unlawful gender-based pay discrimination in court.

Fifth – let’s raise the minimum wage. In 1968, a full-time working earning the minimum wage working all year earned approximately $22,600 in today’s dollars. It’s hard enough to live on that amount! But today, a full-time minimum wage earner brings home only about $15,000!

Over two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women and it is estimated that increasing the federal minimum wage would close the overall wage gap by 5 percent. And no one in America – who works full time - year round – should have to live in poverty.

And finally – let’s put women in the Constitution – and pass the Equal Rights Amendment. By passing the ERA we can make it clear that when we say equal – we mean equal. Not close – not almost – not 77%. But Equal – means Equal.

Now - some may try to argue that these things are not the sorts of things that the government should tackle. But one of the fundamental things that the government alone can – and must do - is to protect the fundamental human right to be treated equally.

And I would also point out – that ours is a representative form of government – and that there are 75 million women are in the labor force – and they would like to have their views vigorously represented. And to put that “75 million women” number in some kind of larger context - in 2012 – the winning candidate for president got just under 66 million votes. So - I’m just saying – Congress should pay attention – to 75 million women who want and deserve to be treated fairly in the workplace.

Thanks for having me here today – and thanks especially to Congressman Don Beyer.

And thank you for all you do.