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Young Women Need the Ohio Equal Pay Act

As a young woman, I find it really embarrassing that in the year 2014 women still earn 77 cents to every dollar that a man does. But I’m hoping that this will be the year that changes that. This year, the Shriver Report brought national attention for paycheck equality. A piece written by Beyonce, appropriately titled “Gender Equality is a MYTH!”, pointed out the need to teach young boys about gender equality and the role of men in promoting pay equity. President Obama dedicated a part of his State of the Union address to equal pay in the workplace, saying that “When women succeed, America succeeds.” This is a national movement. Women everywhere are demanding equal pay for equal work.

In the year 2014, women still earn 77 cents to every dollar that a man earns.  For women of color, the wage gap is even more drastic. African American women earn 63 cents to that dollar while Hispanic women earn 58 cents. As a high school student, I expect more progress out of older generations. It is truly an embarrassment that we cannot declare that there is no wage gap in our country. Hopefully, 2014 will be the year that ends that embarrassment.

Recently, the Shriver Report brought national attention for paycheck equality. They published a piece written by Beyoncé, appropriately titled “Gender Equality is a MYTH!” which pointed out the need to teach young men about gender equality and the role of men in promoting pay equity. Even President Obama dedicated a part of his State of the Union address to equal pay in the workplace, saying that “When women succeed, America succeeds.” Our President is right. Women everywhere should be demanding equal pay for equal work.

Thankfully, my home state of Ohio is already taking action. Earlier this year, Ohio State Rep. Connie Pillich joined other House Democrats to introduce the Ohio Equal Pay Act, which would fall right into line with the federal law Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. This act would close state loopholes that allow employers to be involved with gender-based pay discrimination. Although Ohio laws state that it is illegal to pay based on a variety of factors, including sex, it is not easy for women to prove that their pay is the result of gender based discrimination. The Ohio Equal Pay Act would seek to protect women who speak out against unfair wage policies in the workplace. It also gives women a way to take legal action against employers when it becomes apparent that their pay is the result of gender-based discrimination.

Pay inequity in the workplace is not just a women’s issue. It’s an issue that affects everyone. If women had never joined the workforce, the US GDP would be 26% less than it is today. Granting women equal pay significantly contributes to our economy. The US economy would $447.6 billion dollars in additional income. Women also serve as the head of household in many families across the United States. In fact, a study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research shows that the poverty rate for women would be cut in half if women were paid the same amount as their male counterparts. The poverty rate for working mothers would fall from 28.7 percent to 15.0 percent.

Pay equity is a commonsense issue and we have to take steps on local, state, and government levels to make sure women are granted equal pay for equal work. I was born and raised in Ohio. My sisters were born and raised in Ohio. I want to make sure that they’re growing up in a place where they don’t have to worry about being paid less because they were born with the wrong body parts. And the Ohio Equal Pay Act is a great step in that direction. This is a national movement. We need everyone’s help to move our country forward towards equality for women.

Rebekah Bolser is an advocate for girls, education, and global sustainable development.

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