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Hawaii’s New Pay Transparency Law Helps, But It’s Not Enough

Women are still making substantially less than their male counterparts for doing the same work.

On Jan. 1 of this year Act 203, mandating pay transparency, went into effect following a trend that includes California, Colorado, Maryland and Connecticut, and municipalities like Cincinnati and Ithaca.

Internationally, Canada and the European Union are on board with their own laws.

The Hawaii law requires employers to publish hourly rates or salary ranges for job listings and prohibits the paying of lower wages to any protected category for substantially similar work.

Why was this law needed? The facts speak for themselves.

It’s been 70 years since the passage of the equal pay act at the federal level and over 20 years since Lily Ledbetter discovered through an anonymous note that she was being paid substantially less than men doing the same job at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company.

It’s been 16 years since the passage of the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and yet women are still making substantially less than their male counterparts for doing the same work.

In Hawaii women working full time made 89.4% of what men made in 2019, and 79.4% in 2020 during the pandemic — a substantial drop after some years of consistent gain.

The statistics are even more grim for women of color and Native Hawaiian and Pacific islanders.

The 2017 statistics showed that Black women earned 62% of what white men were paid for the same job. Hawaiian and other Pacific islanders were also paid 62%.

So we may well ask, “If not now, then when?”

We must continue to plug the loop holes in the law that allow some employers to continue to deprive women and their families of just compensation for their work.

We applaud the new pay transparency law. The law should help, but it’s not enough.

First, it exempts those employers with less than 50 workers, which could be a problem since the majority of businesses in Hawaii have fewer than 50 workers and low income occupations make up the majority of those. We will wait and see how the implementation of the law plays out.

In addition there’s a “mommy tax” on moms working full time in Hawaii. They made 75.8% of what working dads made in 2021.

Fact: When working women have a child, they are financially penalized. One U.S. study shows mothers face an average income loss of $8,000 annually, representing a decrease of about 51% compared to their earnings before having children.

Fact: Men who have a child actually get a pay rise. Research by University of Massachusetts Amherst sociology professor Michelle Budig, found that the average man earns a pay bump of more than 6% when he becomes a father. But women’s earnings decreased by 4% for every child they had.

When is not an option. The time is now

Working single mothers living in poverty in Hawaii would be decreased by 43.6% if we didn’t have a gender pay gap. So, in addition to this much needed pay transparency law, we need paid family leave and affordable child care to support working moms, working families.

In this bleak time in the world we need all hands on deck and at their full potential. So the answer to “If not now then when?” is “when” is not an option. The time is now.

The gender pay gap damages the social fabric and therefore damages everyone. The reverse is also true, closing the gap will ultimately benefit everyone.

“If not now, then when?” sang Tracy Chapman.



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