Kerri Sleeman, an AAUW member from Hancock, Michigan, testified in support of the law at a Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) hearing on Tuesday. Sleeman worked as a design supervisor for an engineering company in Michigan for 5 years. "After being told by my employer that I couldn't negotiate my starting salary, I learned after my company went bankrupt that men I had supervised were making much more than I was," Sleeman said. "When I asked my former supervisor why I had been paid less, he said it was likely because those men were the sole earners for their wives and children. I was considered less worthy just because I was a woman."
Women are the sole or primary breadwinners in 40 percent of families with children under the age of 18. But, on average, women still earn only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, and women of color make even less. Black women earn just 64 cents for every dollar earned by white men, and Latina earn only 54 cents. The pay gap costs women about $434,000 over the course of their careers - impacting the ability of women to provide for their families and care for their loved ones. The pay gap also cuts into women's Social Security, pensions, and retirement.
"Women earn 23 cents less for every dollar a man earns," said Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act in the Senate. "Yet, women don't get a 23 percent discount on their student loans. They don't get 23 percent off their first mortgage or a discount on their utility bill, just because they earn less than men. In fact, women often pay more for many of the same goods and services. Women pay more in medical costs than men: an estimated $10,000 over a lifetime. Women are often responsible for child care - an average working mom pays more for child care than tuition."
The Paycheck Fairness Act would close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act of 1963 to require employers to demonstrate that any pay differences between men and women doing the same work are based on legitimate business reasons, and not based on sex. The Act would also end pay secrecy by prohibiting retaliation against employees who share salary information.