Guest opinion: Equal pay for women must be a Montana priority

2014-05-11T00:00:00Z Guest opinion: Equal pay for women must be a Montana priorityBy STEVE BULLOCK
The Billings Gazette
May 11, 2014 12:00 am  • 

On Mother’s Day we pause to thank and honor the incredible women in our lives who sacrifice so much while asking for little in return. We’re honored to be the husbands of two of these amazing Montana women: first lady Lisa Bullock and Lt. Gov. Angela McLean.

Like so many other dads, we’ll join forces with our kids today. We’ll pick out bouquets of flowers and wake up early to make breakfast in bed. But we should be doing more.

As husbands and fathers, we must join together to ensure that women in Montana receive equal pay for equal work. More and more families are relying on income from working mothers to put food on the table, pay bills and make the ends meet. It’s simple: When women do well, working families get ahead.

This may seem like a common-sense notion, but in Montana it’s still a long way off. Women make up nearly half of the Montana workforce, but earn just 67 cents for every dollar their male counterparts make.

Research shows that one reason for this pay disparity is mothers are often expected to leave the workforce to care for newborns or sick family members. They’re penalized in their pay and employment simply because they are, or could become, mothers. Moreover, when mothers seek to re-enter the workplace after raising kids, they’ll often find themselves returning to less prominent and lower-paying jobs than the ones they left.

This “motherhood penalty” means that women earn less, are less likely to receive raises and positive performance evaluations and are less likely to be called back for job interviews.

All Montanans have a role to play in helping to close the wage gap. Fathers must take on their fair share of child care and home duties, so women can better balance their responsibilities in the household and at work. Business owners can enact measures to ensure that pay equity is enforced and to accommodate working parents through policies that support the work-life balance, such as flexible scheduling and family leave.

The state of Montana is fighting for fair pay too. Last year, the Bullock administration established the Equal Pay for Equal Work Task Force to better identify the problem and find workable solutions. The state is currently conducting a pay audit to root out any discrepancies in pay between men and women if they exist, addressing cultural issues through manager trainings, continuing to enhance family-friendly accommodations in the workplace, and studying plans that will require contractors to meet pay equity criteria.

We are offering negotiation training to young women just starting their careers and to women returning to the work force or attempting to progress to higher-paying positions. The training teaches women how to effectively negotiate for appropriate salary and benefits.

On this Mother’s Day let’s honor and thank the mothers in our lives, but let’s also commit ourselves to doing what we can to ensure a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, and his wife Lisa Bullock, are raising children ages 12, nine and seven. Anaconda attorney Mike McLean and his wife, Lt. Gov. Angela McLean, are raising children ages 14 and nine. For information on pay negotiation training, contact your local Job Service office.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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