JEFFERSON CITY - Gender pay equality was discussed during a Senate Small Business Committee hearing Tuesday, March 17, and received overwhelming witness support.
Sponsored by Sen. Paul LeVota, D-Independence, the measure would require the Department of Labor to create guidelines involving gender equality in salaries and wages. The guidelines will not be law, however. They will simply be created for businesses to consider putting them into practice.
"The guidelines will include, but not limited to, what gender pay equality is, why gender pay inequality happens, the benefit of gender pay equality and how to achieve gender pay equality," LeVota said.
LeVota said that women make 71 percent of what males make for the same work, and said it hampers the state's economy.
The measure received great support from the witnesses who testified at the hearing. Among them was a representative from the Attorney General's Office and Wendy Doyle, executive director of the Women's Foundation of Greater Kansas City.
"Not only do women represent 51 percent of our state's population, 65 percent of Missouri women vote, which is a larger percentage than men, and is even higher than the national average for both men and women," Doyle said.
Doyle said the Women's Foundation worked with the University of Missouri's Truman School of Public Affairs to analyze census data concerning gender pay inequality.
"With few exceptions, this income gap persists across all racial and ethic groups, age, educational level and occupation," Doyle said.
Sarah Rossi, policy director at the ACLU of Missouri, also issued support for the measure.
"The benefit of bills like Sen. LeVota's is that it's a good first step," Rossi said. "It sets a really good example."
The only witness in opposition to the measure was Ray McCarty, president of Associated Industries of Missouri.
"We want to be in opposition of the bill because we feel it's unnecessary," McCarty said. "This bill, if it truly is establishing guidelines, these guidelines could be set up right now by the Department of Labor or really any private group that wants to take it on."
McCarty also said that by passing the bill, the guidelines created by the Labor Department may carry some weight of law and could be used against businesses in court.
As is customary upon first reading, the committee took no immediate action on the bill.