Delaware marks Equal Pay Day

    Legislative leaders talk about equal pay in Dover. (Zoe Read/WHYY)

    Legislative leaders talk about equal pay in Dover. (Zoe Read/WHYY)

    Legislators in Delaware marked Equal Pay Day Tuesday, calling for equal pay for women.

    When Penny Deiner was a young woman a potential employer asked for her salary expectations. She told them $13,000—a salary a male colleague turned down because it was too low.

    She said the employer was shocked, but eventually agreed to the salary. Even though a salary agreement was made, Deiner still received a letter from the employer stating salaries are strictly not discussed.

    That was many years ago. But similar situations continue to occur in Delaware, where women earn 82 percent of what men earn.

    On Tuesday Deiner, president of the American Association of University Women of Delaware, joined women’s rights leaders and legislators at Legislative Hall in Dover to mark Equal Pay Day in Delaware.

    Shortly after the event the General Assembly passed resolution HCR 62, sponsored by House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear, to officially mark Tuesday as Equal Pay Day.

    Together the women—and men—wore red to symbolize that women are “in the red” compared to men’s pay.

    “Equal pay based on gender is an important issue for families, for women, because it relates to issues such as poverty, the well-being of families because there are so many single-parent families and it’s a social justice issue as well,” Deiner said.

    Women legislators of both parties hosted the event to call for a continued, sustained effort to close the gender wage gap in Delaware. Members of the Delaware Commission for Women and the League of Women Voters also were in attendance.

    “When good people come together change can take place,” said State Sen. Margaret Rose Henry, D-Wilmington. “When the room is full of beautiful women and men I think change is taking place.”

    Delaware women working full-time earn on average 82 percent of the earnings of full-time working men, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics—that’s about $431,000 in lost wages over a career, according to an analysis by the American Association of University Women.

    In addition, African American women living in Delaware earn 70 cents for every dollar that white men earn. Hispanic women living in Delaware earn 64 cents for every dollar that white men earn. 

    Some of the legislators discussed their own experiences, including Rep. Stephanie Bolden, D-Wilmington, who said she took a job and learned a male counterpart with less experience was earning about $30,000 more than her.

    “We need to have a theme, and that should be ‘When do we want it?’”

    “Now!” chanted the women in the room.

    The women attending the event say Delaware has come a long way. Last year legislation introduced by Longhurst was passed to require companies awarded with a state contract to provide its employees equal pay for equal work regardless of gender. But more needs to be done, they say.

    “I think there are a lot more bills we as women need to put out,” Longhurst said.

    Deiner said there are several steps that need to be taken to achieve equality.

    “I think we need to have more transparency about pay….If everyone knows what people are being paid then you get begin to look at gender inequities, without that knowledge it’s difficult to know,” she said.

    “I think also we need to give a lot of thought to bias, to prejudice and to look at jobs, and the jobs that need to be done, who’s doing them and if the pay for them is equitable.”

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