New legislation looks to reduce gender pay gap

The bill was voted ‘do pass’ in a April 14 committee meeting.

The Missouri General Assembly is beginning to move forward on bills aimed at creating equal pay in Missouri, a state ranked 24th by the American Association of University Women in equal pay for full-time workers.

Currently, according to MU’s Institute of Public Policy and the Women’s Foundation, women working full-time in Missouri earn only $0.71 for each dollar a man earns for the same work.

Senate Bill 144, introduced by state Sen. Paul Levota, D-Independence, aims to create gender pay equality guidelines for Missouri businesses. The bill was voted ‘do pass’ out of committee April 14 and will now move on to the Missouri General Assembly.

House Bill 44, introduced by state Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, is a bill with similar intent. The bill was referred to a second committee, the Select Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations, on April 28.

LeVota sponsored SB 144 because he said he felt he had a duty to his daughters.

“I was inspired by the persistence of Rep. Stephen Webber on this issue,” he said in an email. “But most importantly, I have two daughters and I believe they should be paid as fairly as any other Missourian.”

He said he thinks the pay gap can effectively be addressed by the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

“The problem is that women make 78 percent of what men make in our state,” he said. “Our Department of Labor should help employees with guidelines to improve pay equality. Senate Bill 144 would help with this issue.”

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce did not respond to requests for comment.

The Women’s Foundation said they’re hopeful of the change these bills could create.

“The movement of these bills represents great progress for the Women’s Foundation’s public policy agenda in addressing the fact that women in Missouri make only 71 cents to the dollar men make,” a news release stated.

Wendy Doyle, the President and CEO of the Women’s Foundation, said she was glad to see HB 44 move further in the General Assembly.

“We’re now one step closer to enacting a smart policy solution which will address the gender pay gap and positively impact the lives of Missouri women as well as our economy,” she said in a news release.

MU junior Jessie Martin said she thinks it’s time men and women are rewarded the same for the same work.

“I think that men and women should be paid equally, as long as the job title and work they’re doing is equal,” she said. “If men and women are holding the same position with the same job description but not getting paid equally, then yes, the bill is a good idea.”

Webber said he sees these bills as an opportunity to create common-sense legislation.

“By working together, we have created the opportunity to pass a straightforward policy solution aimed at improving the lives of Missouri women, their families and our economy,” he said in a news release. “The gender wage gap affects us all and with bipartisan support we will begin to close it.”

LeVota said he considers these bills a step forward for Missouri.

“My hope is the we can pass Senate Bill 144 and the Department of Labor will identify pay equality guidelines for Missouri businesses,” he said. “It can be a first step to create gender pay equality.”

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