Iowa’s gender pay gap is one of the widest in the nation. According to the AAUW, on average, women in Iowa make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. That number is well below the national average and places Iowa at number 41 in a ranking of the 50 states and Washington D.C.
Factors At Work
Employers give a lot of reasons for the gender pay gap, but really the gender pay gap is a result of gender discrimination – pure and simple – both historical and current discrimination. Because women have historically been paid less than men they are often willing to accept lower pay than a man would, however courts have made it clear that woman’s willingness to accept a lower pay rate does not make it legal to pay her less for the same work.
This factor is compounded by the fact that many women don’t know they are being paid less than the men they work with. Many employers prohibit employees from sharing their salaries allowing them to keep unequal pay a secret. Although Iowa passed its Equal Pay Act in 2009, and it is one of the strongest Equal Pay Acts in the nation, it requires that employees file a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission or file a lawsuit in order to remedy unfair pay. As it stands today, there are no specific laws in Iowa that prevent an employer from requiring his employees to keep their wages a secret from their fellow employees. Workplace discrimination lawyers see firsthand that this lack of transparency may cause female employees to be unaware of discriminatory pay practices happening in their workplace.
What You Can Do
Whether you are a woman in Iowa feeling that pay gap, or anyone anywhere who feels the weight of this discrimination, there are steps you can take to make change.
1) Advocate for Yourself
Speak with your employer or your fellow employees to find out if your salary or wages is commensurate with your male colleagues. Negotiate your salary, raises, and bonuses with confidence, knowing that the U.S. Equal Pay Act, Title VIII and Iowa’s Equal Pay Act protect women from being paid unfairly. Iowa and federal law also protect you from retaliation from your employer for bringing this up. If you suspect unfair pay practices, here are a few things you should know.
2) Advocate for All
Starting with your own negotiations, continue having this conversation. Speak with other women in your industry or community and encourage them to speak up for themselves. Unequal pay practices occur in every field and women in leadership positions may be at a higher risk of being paid unfairly. If you are in a position to set salaries in your organization, review women’s pay and advocate for equal pay among men and women.
3) Legislative Change
Educate yourself about local or state laws on the ballot that further protect employees from wage discrimination. Speak with your legislators, state and federal, about laws that encourage transparency and honesty in wage practices. At the federal level, every year, a bill is introduced that would require employer transparency so that people know when they are being paid unfairly, but every year corporate employers oppose the bill and it has never passed. Contact your representatives and encourage them to support this bill. Iowa could enact a similar law and so you should also contact your state representatives and encourage them to put forth this type of legislation.
4) Seek Legal Assistance
If you discover that you have been paid less than your male colleagues, we can help. We have experience as workplace discrimination lawyers and have successfully represented women in court who were being paid unfairly.