The state legislature is currently considering two bills that could improve wages for women across Pennsylvania. These efforts and more were highlighted at today's Equal Pay Day Rally in Downtown Pittsburgh's Market Square.
The annual rally hosted by the Women and Girls Foundation draws attention to the pay gap between men and women. For every dollar earned by men in Pittsburgh, women earn just 74 cents. And Pittsburgh is rated third on the list of metropolitan areas with the highest gender pay gap.
"A society can't reach it's full potential if its women aren't treated fairly," said Melanie Harrington, CEO of Vibrant Pittsburgh, an organization that works to increase diversity in the region. "If we are not attractive to women, we will not be the best region we can be."
A piece of legislation sponsored by state Rep. Erin Molchany seeks to change that. The Work Place Opportunity Act would protect employees who discuss wages with their coworkers and force employers to prove wage disparities are based on factors other than gender.
"Harrisburg is not an easy place for women," Molchany said. "Our state ranks at the bottom of the list when it comes to women in politics."
The rally also shed light on legislation that would end sub-minimum wage for employees who receive tips, which includes restaurant serves, and increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour. According to speaker Estelle Becker who has worked as a server for 30 years, 70 percent of all servers are women.
"For the past 20 years, I have not received a raise," Becker says. "All of my income is dependent on tips."
Speakers said local legislation is especially important because federal representatives failed to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this year. The bill would have made wages more transparent in the workplace and require employers to justify wage disparities.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto were also on hand at the rally to tout their own successes in increasing opportunities for women.
“I’m here to report for the first time, the highest paid employee in Allegheny County is a woman,” Fitzgerald said. “And for the first time, the leader of the Port Authority is a woman.”
Peduto said the majority or members on the city’s boards, authorities and commissions are women. And four out of eight chiefs in his administration are women.
“We will be the example that the rest of corporate Pittsburgh will follow,” Peduto said. “The city of Pittsburgh and city government can become the shining example for others to follow.”