Women Deserve Better
Today is International Women’s Day. Other states are far ahead of us on policymaking to advance gender equality. Why are we -- once again -- playing catch up instead of leading?
For example, Washington State just passed a comprehensive Family and Medical Leave Act. But in Massachusetts, advocates have had to go to the voters to ask them to pass Paid Family and Medical Leave via ballot measure. Why? Because Charlie Baker is not leading. He’s standing in the way.
Right now 1.2 million Massachusetts workers risk losing their jobs if they take time off work for a family medical emergency or to care for a new child. We all need paid leave to allow us to to care for our severe personal challenges or our loved ones -- but we have a special responsibility to insure that women workers get access quickly. In our still biased economy, women assume the lion's share of responsibility for child and elder care while also being penalized with lower salaries because of the gender wage gap.
We need to raise the minimum wage to $15 in Massachusetts and get rid of the sub-minimum "tipped" wage - both of which, again, present a special burden for women. Women are the majority of minimum wage workers in Massachusetts, and many are single mothers who cannot earn enough under the current minimum wage to keep their children out of poverty.
Paid Family and Medical Leave, and the $15 minimum wage are fundamental steps to begin addressing economic injustices facing women in Massachusetts.
There is so much more we can and must do. Here’s something I would do on Day one as governor -- ask all state government agencies to prepare a Gender Parity Report in preparation for an executive order. Our state government must reflect the diversity of our population, with women holding at least half the leadership positions.
As Governor I will work to vigorously enforce the new pay equity law that becomes effective this year in Massachusetts.
And I won’t stop there. Within the first six months I will ask for disclosure by all major institutions in our state to report on their records of pay equity. If disclosure alone does not make significant improvements within the first year, I will move promptly to executive action to fill gaps in our new pay equity law.
Pay equity isn't only a matter of gender justice, it's also a matter of racial justice. While white women earn 80¢ to the dollar earned by white men, Black women average 63¢ and Latinas only 54¢. That is wrong and it must change. And it will, through our force of will and commitment.
Realizing the promise of pay equity will depend on the leadership and commitment of the next governor to take serious sustained action on a whole range of gender injustices that keep women from equal participation in our economy.
The MeToo movement has exposed that sexual harassment and assault are an epidemic that have direct consequences for women’s career advancement, health and economic security. We must take bold and comprehensive action to strengthen our laws on domestic and sexual violence, and empower survivors.
Almost 20 years ago I used these same strategies of measurement, disclosure, and penalties for poor performance to develop the Global Reporting Initiative, the world’s most widely used sustainability reporting standards, used by thousands of organizations across nearly 100 countries. I am proud to say that gender equality was built into the standards from the very beginning and today companies use 16 separate indicators capture -- all available on investors screens -- to offer evidence of their commitment to pay equity.
Shining a spotlight on the gender pay gap is the starting point to change, and I will be committed to fixing gender pay inequity in state government, and beyond.
As this campaign continues we will be listening to advocates, workers, residents, students, mothers, and many others -- listening and then working together to lay out the path to true gender justice and thus put Massachusetts where it must again be: in the lead.