Mississippi still only state without an equal law on the books

Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 8:15 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Women are making less than men no matter their education level. And the wage gap is wider in Mississippi than any other state.

A federal law is on the books, but advocates say it’s been weakened since it was signed into law 58 years ago.

Congress considered the Paycheck Fairness Act recently that would’ve added protections like preventing employers from requesting salary history.

Willie Jones’ companies Dependable Source Corp. Workforce Development Center and DSC Training Academy are trying to help women buck the trends.

“We place men and women in trucking, construction and IT,” said Jones, who is President and CEO. “Do you know what all three of those have in common... is that there’s no glass ceiling. Women get paid the same as men get paid in those industries.”

Still, Mississippi is the only state without an equal pay law on the books. And Mississippi women are making on average about 75 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts. Advocates like Cassandra Welchlin thinks lawmakers need to realize it’s more than just a “women’s issue.”

“We continue to say we are a workforce business friendly place,” noted Welchlin. “Well, that means looking at who’s in the workforce and there are a lot of women.”

Welchlin believes a state law should protect against both gender and race wage gaps because Black women in the state make 56 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts.

“That’s $21,000 a year that could go towards childcare, utilities and groceries,” she added.

The Mississippi Women’s Foundation echoes that the wage gap has a domino effect.

“If we were to just close the pay gap between women and men in similar occupations we would actually be able to cut poverty in Mississippi by half,” said Mississippi Women’s Foundation Executive Director Tracy DeVries.

An equal pay hearing is being scheduled for the fall at the State Capitol and Jones hopes lawmakers will gain needed perspective as the push for change continues into the next legislative session.

“More women owned businesses need to speak up about this law,” Jones noted. “Not only women owned businesses but businesses as a whole. I’d like to hear from businesses that say here’s what we’re doing on this issue.”

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