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Breadwinning moms say ‘thank you’ to Kamala Harris

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As a breadwinning mom who fought to be paid equitably twice using the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — and won, I watched in earnest as presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) announced a new policy that would put the responsibility for proving equitable pay on employers, fining them if they don’t pay women equally. 

I know first hand the economic debate of speaking up, especially when others rely on me for their economic well being. If I speak up about inequitable treatment and pay, I may win additional compensation and opportunity. However, months or even years later I could face retaliation which will either end my career or hinder my future career prospects. The doubling of retaliation cases seen by the EEOC in the past 21 years makes this clear.

This is where Sen. Harris’ proposal enters the scene. Her proposal takes President Obama’s EEO-1 proposal two steps further: accountability and penalty.

First, Harris’ plan would require all companies with 100 or more employees to earn an equal pay certification by proving they pay men and women the same for doing work of the same value. Second, if there’s a pay gap, companies would be fined 1 percent of their profits for every 1 percent wage gap.

Those fines would go into a fund to help pay for paid family and medical leave plan. The plan would also require companies to: Report the share of women in leadership positions; bar companies from asking about prior salary history; prohibit their employees from talking about their pay openly; and ban the use of forced arbitration to handle pay discrimination claims.

Harris’ plan gives nod to what Iceland did in 2018. They put the responsibility for equal pay on employers — making companies pay up for having pay gaps. In doing so, Iceland became the first country in the world to enact a true equal pay law. In 2019, France was the second country to shift the burden of proving equal pay to companies, and we are already starting to see results.

If we truly want to close the gender pay gap, we must ensure the inputs for the Equal Pay Certification are unbiased, by using artificial intelligence and cloud computing — to make gender equity a reality in my lifetime.

We’ve learned that you can’t close the gender pay gap by starting with pay. Why? because the inputs — namely performance and potential — are skewed. Pay is the quantification of the value you place on your talent. Herein lies the problem. The value decisions you place on your talent are made before you decide their pay. If we want to truly achieve equal pay, we must ensure unbiased inputs.

Finally, to close the gender pay gap once and for all, we must address all three legs of the gender pay gap’s three legged-stool. Harris’ proposal is critically important to fix one leg of the stool (inequitable wages). The other two are student loan debt and the pink tax.

Harris’ plan not only benefits women, it is advantageous for everyone. Beyond the $180B generated from fines in first 10 years projected by Harris’ campaign, closing the gender pay gap could add $512.6B of additional income to the U.S. economy ($9.2B in my home state of Colorado) and cut the Social Security Savings gap by 35 percent.

Her plan would provide a solution for a country whose gender pay gap has barely budged in over a decade. A solution for a country with gender pay gaps in 97 percent of professions. A solution for a country where women attain 57 percent of bachelors degrees and above, have added $2T to the nations GDP since 1970 through increased economic participation, and yet are projected to decrease their labor force participation.

Over 56 percent of children living in poverty live in a household headed by women. And among people 65 and older, more than twice as many women live in poverty than men. We need an equitable solution that will cause massive action and close the gender pay gap once and for all.

We’ve spent enough time admiring the problem of the gender pay gap. The time is now for action. This breadwinning mom says “thank you” Sen. Harris. Thank you for taking a bold step forward to ensure my children and the other 28 million children of the 16 million moms in the US, are valued equally. Thank you for taking a bold step to ensure children have equitable opportunities regardless of the fact that their moms are the breadwinners. It is these opportunities my father risked his life and his daughters’ lives for when he came to this country 63 years ago.

Katica Roy is the CEO and founder of Pipeline, a Denver-based startup that increases financial performance through closing the gender equity gap.

Tags Equal pay pay gap

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