Danielson: Equal Pay in State Contracts

By Rep. Jessie Danielson

As a fourth-generation Coloradan, I am proud to call this wonderful place home. Our state leads the country in so many ways. It’s not just our ski resorts and natural spaces that attract so many people here. We are a leader in workforce development, renewable energy, and protecting the environment. Our economy is the envy of 41 other states.

And yet, the women of Colorado – – still only make 78 cents for every dollar that a man makes for the same work. Race affects wages, too: Hispanic women earn just 53.8 cents on the dollar, and African American women only 65.5 cents.

So we need to lead in another way too. That’s why I am sponsoring the Equal Pay in State Contracts Act — which the Speaker of the House has designated House Bill 1. This bill will ensure that businesses receiving state contracts are paying women and men equally for the same work. When the State of Colorado does business with your tax dollars, we should only work with companies that pay their workers fairly.

Colorado women are leaders in the state, the classroom, and in the job market. We don’t have a shortage of women in competitive fields or high-paying careers. Over 40 percent of all employed women in the state are in managerial or professional occupations. I’m proud to say that Colorado ranks fifth in the nation for the percent of employed women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) occupations — the jobs of the future.

And yet, the wage gap persists. At the current rate, Colorado’s wage gap wouldn’t be closed until 2057.

We can’t just sit by and hope for progress. Not when fixing this inequity will have enormous impacts on women and their families while growing our state’s economy. Statistics show that if all working adult women in Colorado were paid the same as men in comparable jobs, their average annual earnings would increase from $40,256 to $47,581. If all Colorado women earned equal pay for equal work, the poverty rate for working women would be cut in half. Colorado’s economy would grow by billions.

Now we have the opportunity to take a step to help solve this problem.

The Equal Pay in State Contracts Act is an important step that state government can take to level the playing field and make sure that women and men are paid the same for equal work. It is our chance to put Colorado on the road to being a model for the nation.

Jessie Danielson, D-Wheat Ridge, is the state representative for House District 24, encompassing Wheat Ridge, Golden, Edgewater, Applewood, Fairmount, Mountain View and Lakeside. She and Rep. Janet Buckner, D-Aurora, are sponsoring the Equal Pay in State Contracts Act in the 2016 session of the Colorado General Assembly.

op-edRachel Caine