Gov. Andrew Cuomo has a lot on his agenda for 2013, including addressing inequality in the state. In particular, voters are looking to see the gender pay gap addressed, according to a January poll of New York voters.
The poll taken by Quinnipiac University revealed that 53 percent of New York state residents are pushing for Cuomo to make the gender pay gap a priority in his agenda for the upcoming year.
The issue of the gender pay gap did play a role in Cuomo’s State of the State Address in January, with his introduction of the Women’s Equality Act — a 10-point agenda that focuses on domestic and health concerns. One of the points does address equal pay.
"New York state is the equality capital of the nation, but we still have more to do,” Cuomo said in the address. “We passed marriage equality. Let's make history again, and let's pass a Women's Equality Act in the State of New York.”
Svante Myrick, the mayor of Ithaca, said he agrees with the voters of New York state that this issue should be a priority for Cuomo.
“Honestly, I think the gender pay gap is a shame, and I think that it is something we should focus on,” Myrick said.
The mayor said the city government no longer has gender pay gaps for employees, but he does not know about private sectors in the city.
The American Association of University Women released a report, “The Simple Truth,” in September 2012 that showed in 2011, women working full time in the U.S. earned almost 23 percent less than their male counterparts.
The AAUW also reported the statistics by state, with New York ranking eighth in the nation for equality in pay, with men earning $8,275 more than women, a 16 percent difference. Wyoming was the lowest-ranking state with a 33 percent difference in pay between men and women, or a dollar difference of $17,249. Ranked first was Washington, D.C., with a 10 percent difference in wages, or $6,428.
In a press statement released when “The Simple Truth” was published, Linda Hallman, executive director of the AAUW, said Americans believe the pay gap issue has been resolved.
“Next year, we’ll mark the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act,” Hallman said in a press release. “Too many Americans think that the landmark legislation took care of the problem. Unfortunately, it has not. AAUW will not be deterred, and we will continue to push for the change until the women of America are paid fairly.”
Shaianne Osterreich, associate professor of economics, said the gap is nothing new, here or abroad.
“The gender pay gap has been around since women entered the workforce,” Osterreich said, describing gender discrimination as the leading factor in this gap. “Women around the world are paid significantly less than the men doing the same jobs.”
Osterreich said an underlying reason for this difference in pay is women’s lack of negotiating salaries and benefits in the workplace, whereas men have been known to bargain.
Osterreich will be speaking about bargaining, discrimination and working as a 20-something in her presentation of feminist economics at the college on Feb. 20. Her presentation is one of the Teach, Initiate, Advocate! Talks being co-sponsored by the Office of Student Engagement and Multicultural Affairs and the office of career services.
The TIA Talks will revolve around the issue of gender equity and hope to change the attitudes of college graduates. The talks are open to all students, staff and faculty, no matter what the gender. Other presentations include talks on professional confidence, financial literacy and negotiation skills, finished off with a networking dinner at the end of the series.
Caryanne Keenan, assistant director for career development, said a grant from the AAUW’s Campus Action Program made the presentations possible.
“I’m so excited for the presentations,” Keenan said. “It’s important for people to get involved and educated. At Ithaca, where the majority of students are women, this is something really important. We want more people there to hear about these issues. It doesn’t just take women to get these things done.”
Myrick said the governor is headed in the right direction for civil rights but is unsure whether the pay gap will be high on Cuomo’s list.
“The governor is extremely civil rights minded, and I believe he is on the right side of this issue,” Myrick said. “I just don’t know if he intends to make it a priority.”
Osterreich, Keenan and Myrick echoed each other in saying they are “cautiously” hopeful and optimistic of how this issue will be handled by the state.
“There is a part of me that really wants to jump onto this and believe that something is going to happen, because it needs to happen,” Keenan said. “It has needed to happen for too long. There’s no reason two equally qualified people, regardless of gender, what the color of your skin is, what your religion is, there should be no reason you make a different amount of money.”