Editorials

Sometimes it's hard to be a woman, making 79 percent of just one man

In 50 years women have closed the gender earnings gap by 20 cents to the current 79 cents compared to $1 for a man.
In 50 years women have closed the gender earnings gap by 20 cents to the current 79 cents compared to $1 for a man. bweisenstein@bnd.com

We just closed out Women's History Month with some more of the same, and not in a good way.

For a half century it has been illegal to discriminate in the workplace based on gender. Still, women in Illinois make 79 cents for every $1 a man makes.

Black women only make 63 percent and Hispanic and Latina women make 48 percent.

If that's not enough insult to 51 percent of the population, two women are suing in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois and seeking class-action status. The pair claim Walmart discriminated against them when they were pregnant.

Talisa Borders worked in the O'Fallon Walmart in the pharmacy department for $10.85 an hour when she became pregnant and her doctor said she should avoid climbing ladders and lifting heavy objects. Walmart put her on unpaid leave until after she had her child, then put her in other departments that paid $2 an hour less.

"Walmart has always been a great place for women to work," company spokesman Randy Hargrove said.

Unless you are pregnant?

Walmart was told the case should remain here, which may be a much bigger deal than the company spokesman said it was. This area's state courtrooms have been a notorious magnet for venue shopping, but not so much in federal court. Plus, U.S. District Judge Michael Reagan has been pretty no-nonsense in the past.

As far as the pay inequity, two Democratic female lawmakers — one in the Illinois House and one in the Illinois Senate — have competing bills that would stop employers from asking about salary history. Past wage discrepancies can carry through a woman's career if employers can see the salary history.

State Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant's bill removes fines for employers who can show they are closing the gap. It has backing from the state's business community.

Maybe things will be better a year from now for women in the workplace. But if women's history is any indicator, it took 50 years to erase 20 percentage points of pay inequity and may take until 2068 to erase the rest.

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