A Step Towards Pay Equity in Pennsylvania

Diana Polson |

Governor Tom Wolf signed an executive order yesterday aimed at combating pay equity in Pennsylvania. The order, called “Equal Pay for Employees of the Commonwealth,” prohibits employers in state government from asking applicants for their salary history in an effort to steer employers away from reinforcing pay inequities between men and women.

This legislation would impact 15,000 jobs under the governor, 2,189 of which are unfilled at the moment. The order underscores the requirement of state agencies to set salaries based on the responsibilities required in the job, the pay range of the position and the skill set of the applicant, not salary history. Wolf said that when employers ask candidates for their salary history and take that information into account, it “traps women in a cycle of being underpaid.”

Pay inequities between men and women in Pennsylvania are worse than the national average. Women are paid just 79 cents for each dollar men are paid. And this wage gap is even worse for women of color—African Americans are paid 68 cents to each dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men in the state; Latinas 56 cents; and Asian women 81 cents. The median annual pay for women working full-time, full-year is $39,905 compared to the state’s men who are paid a median of $50,412. This is an annual wage gap of over $10,000 a year.

This wage gap exists regardless of industry or occupation—in retail trade, health care and social assistance, manufacturing and more. And it affects women of all educational levels. Women with master’s degrees earn just 72 cents for each dollar earned by men with master’s degrees. In fact, nationally, women with master’s degrees are paid less than men with bachelor’s degrees.

While Governor Wolf’s executive order is a step in the right direction, it will not resolve the widespread issue of pay inequity experienced by workers in the private sector and beyond. We must organize to end the gender and racial pay gap in Pennsylvania—this will involve pursuing a broad agenda aimed at improving wages, working conditions and more.

We The People is a nonpartisan campaign aimed at ensuring all Pennsylvania residents can truly thrive in their communities. This campaign has an agenda that will address this critical issue of pay inequity by, among other things, raising the minimum wage, eliminating the tipped minimum wage, creating fair scheduling laws, guaranteeing earned sick leave, vigorously enforcing wage theft and non-discrimination laws, raising the overtime threshold in Pennsylvania, creating a system of paid family and medical leave insurance and strengthening the right to form unions and organize as workers.

Sign up to support this agenda and together we can work towards a Pennsylvania that values all workers and community members.