Closing the gender pay gap

Building a stronger and fairer economy for everyone in New Jersey is what Gov. Phil Murphy and Lt. Gov. Shiela Oliver ran on. But even after the governor signed a tough pay equity law last year, there was still more to do. Women in New Jersey still earn less than their male counterparts, in some cases by a lot.

Overall, women in New Jersey earn 80 cents on the dollar. It’s 74 cents for white women, 88 cents for Asian women, 56 cents for black women and Native Americans. For Latinas it’s the worst in the country at 42 cents on the dollar.

Thursday, Acting Gov. Sheila Oliver wielded the pen for a bill that hopes to close the gap for women and people of color in general by prohibiting prospective employers from asking about your salary history.

“Whatever you do out there, whether you’re a hygienist, whether you work in a store, no matter what you do,” said Assemblywoman Joann Downey. “If you’re doing the same job and you’ve worked really hard, you should be making the same amount of money as your male counterparts and that’s the bottom line.”

So an employer won’t be able to ask you how much you made on your last job, the idea being that your next employer won’t be able to so easily underpay you as your previous employer.

“Well, if she only made $50,000 at her last job, even if the person who had this job before made $60,000, why do we have to pay her, or him, 60, when they made 50, so let’s offer 51 or 52,” added Oliver. “People should be judged on the salary they’re going to earn based on their qualifications, their expertise and experience, and their ability to do the job and what they bring to the job.”

“Ladies and gentleman, if we’re going to live in a free society, it must be equal,” said Assemblyman Gary Schaer. “If we’re going to live in a country where all of us celebrate the ideals that we speak about in terms of democracy, equality, liberty, then it is long overdue that this bill be signed.”

Not lost on many in attendance was a female lieutenant governor of color, signing a bill that was vetoed by the previous governor, surrounded by future workers who could one day be part of a workplace where everybody is paid exactly what they’re worth, no matter what.