State lawmakers address wage gap on Equal Pay Day

Fans stand behind a large sign for equal pay for the women's soccer team during an international friendly soccer match between the United States and Colombia at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field, Wednesday, April 6, 2016, in East Hartford, Conn.

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Tuesday marked Equal Pay Day, aimed at raising awareness for the pay gap between men and women across the nation.

In the United States, women make an average of 21 percent less than a man’s earnings, according to an April 2016 congressional report.

Inga Balke, an engineer and native of Wyandotte, Mich., became an equal pay advocate after her superiors didn’t tell her she was due for a raise after working for the company more than two decades.

“I felt betrayed,” she told WLNS, WOOD TV8’s Lansing sister station.

But she knows she isn’t alone.

“The more people I’ve talked to, unfortunately, the more people I’m finding out that my story is not unique,” Balke said.

Tuesday, Michigan lawmakers met to discuss 12 bills that have yet to make it to a committee hearing. Those bills would create penalties for work places that discriminate or pay unequally and rewards for those that uphold equal pay.

It’s an issue that state Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright, D-Muskegon, that affects more than just women.

“When both members of the family are paid fairly then the whole family benefits,” Hovey-Wright said.

Women in Michigan make $.75 for every $1 men make. But even when the issue is brought up, not all women will take a stand.

“For some women, having a job, even if it pays a third less than their male counterparts make, is too important to lose in this economy,” state Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, said.

Because the pay gap affects everyone, Michigan State University’s Women’s Resource Center Director Lydia Weiss said, everyone should get involved.

“For all instances of inequality, you need everyone working together to create change,” Weiss said.

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