Want to Cut Poverty?
Pay women equitably

*It is not news to women that they earn less than their male colleagues for doing comparable work. Still, they might be surprised to see the hard numbers.

The cost of wage discrimination to women in this state is about $2.7 billion each year, according to a recently released report that analyzed government wage data.

On average, women in South Carolina earn 76 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. Separated out, black women earn only 64 cents.

If women were paid the same as men -- with age, educational background and hours worked being equal -- it would reduce the number of women and children in poverty in South Carolina by half, the study found. If single mothers were paid equitably, their earnings would rise an average of $3,556 annually, cutting the poverty rate from 35 percent to 16 percent.

These are among the findings of a study conducted by the Institute for Women's Policy Research and the AFL-CIO's Working Women's Department.

"Working women are a majority of the citizens in this state," said Donna Dewitt, president of the state AFL-CIO, at a press conference in January. "Our votes determine who wins in the General Assembly. Women must get organized on this issue."

Dewitt was joined by representatives from the League of Women Voters, the NAACP, ACLU-SC, Common Cause, the Governor's Commission on Women, the University of South Carolina's Women's Studies Department and several unions.

Legislation will be introduced this session by Rep. Bessie Moody-Lawrence (D-Rock Hill) to help close the gender pay gap in state jobs and contracts.

"The study has been well-received, and we are glad that Gov. Hodges has expressed his support for pay equity," Dewitt said. "Now we have to make it happen."

The South Carolina Progressive Network, which Dewitt co-chairs, is coordinating a Womens' Project to foster cooperation between women activists and organizations in South Carolina to better address issues that affect women, including gender pay inequity.

For more information, call the Progressive Network at 803-808-3384 in Columbia.

Wage Gaps in South Carolina
(median weekly earnings for full-time workers, 1997)
  WomenMenWage Gap
All workers$379$499$120
Minority Wage Gap$94$126N/A

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