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Gender balancing act

  • KIP AOKI / KAOKI@STARADVERTISER.COM
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Full-time working women in Hawaii are paid on average $9,934 less per year than their male counterparts, according to a study released yesterday.

The study conducted by the National Partnership for Women & Families and the American Association of University Women concluded that the gap costs Hawaii’s families a total of more than $1.7 billion annually.

With 68 percent of Hawaii women now bringing in more than a quarter of their families’ income and women heading more than 55,000 households, unequal wages are a major drag on the state economy, the groups said.

"This new data illustrate the very real harm unequal wages are doing to families and the state," said Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families. "It is long past time to close the gender-based wage gap. With women playing an increasingly important role as family breadwinners, there is no time to waste."

According to the report, if the gap between men’s and women’s wages were eliminated, each full-time working woman in Hawaii could afford mortgage and utility bills for four more months per year, rent for eight more months or more than three more years of family health insurance premiums.

"This research proves that the gender pay gap is not simply a numbers issue or a women’s issue," said AAUW Executive Director Linda Hallman. "It’s a bread-and-butter issue. It’s an everyday issue for people who are trying to support their families and provide for their futures. No more lip service; it’s time to act."

Hawaii is not the only state with a wage gap. Nationally, women working full time are paid an average of only 77 cents for every dollar paid to full-time working men, according to the study. The gap has been closing at a rate of less than half a cent per year since the passage of the 1963 Equal Pay Act. At that pace, working women won’t earn the same amount as men until 2058.

Ness said she was encouraged to see the reintroduction of the Paycheck Fairness Act in Congress. The legislation, which would establish stronger workplace protections for women, was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in the last Congress but fell two votes short of moving forward in the Senate last year.

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