COLUMBUS, Ohio — Democrats in the Ohio House have reintroduced a bill to require women to be paid the same as men, trying to end the gender wage gap.
About 4.6 million women are part of Ohio's workforce, according to data from the Sec. of State. Those women all face the same barrier due to their gender.
"You're doing the same job, you have the same amount of education, perhaps even the same experience, past experience," said Helen Forbes Fields, president of YWCA Greater Cleveland. "And you learn that you still have not been paid in an equal way — how frustrating. That's so disheartening."
In 2023, Forbes Fields hoped she wouldn't still be debating wage equity, but even the fight for equal pay has inequities inside.
"What we know for Black women, is they are part of a group that has higher education as a group, but really are one of the lowest paid," she said.
The U.S. Department of Labor found that no woman, regardless of race, makes the same amount on average as a white, non-Hispanic man’s dollar earned.
Asian women make $0.92, white earn $0.79, Black women make $0.67 and Hispanic women earn $0.58. Indigenous women were not calculated in this study, but the American Association of University Women found that Native women earn $0.51 compared to white men.
State Rep. Jessica Miranda (D-Forest Park) wants to change this.
"Women's pay equity is very, very lagging behind where it should be here in Ohio," Miranda said.
She put forward House Bill 115 to address this issue. It would stop employers from prohibiting their employees from talking about salary, prevent employers from requesting a prospective employee's current wage and requires businesses who receive state money to get an equal pay certificate, to certify that the employer offers growth opportunities to all employees regardless of gender.
It also requires the government to evaluate their employees’ pay scales to ensure that compensation is based on similar skills, effort, responsibilities and working conditions across job categories.
There are no public opponents to the bill, but this isn’t the first time it has been introduced. The bill failed to move during the last General Assembly.
"Pay equity should not be a partisan issue," Miranda said.
Forbes Fields wants Republican lawmakers to help move the bill forward.
"My hope is that the males that are looking at these types of laws remember that they have mothers, they have sisters, they have daughters who all have the right to pursue their passions and to pursue higher wage-earning jobs," the advocate said.
Democrats are hopeful the bill will get hearings this year.
The problems surrounding equal pay go much deeper than the paychecks women are collecting right now. It'll also have a lasting impact on their futures, decades down the road.
"We haven’t even begun to have the conversation about retirement security and what that means for women being able to retire at the same rate and have the same kind of assets and comfortability to retire that men have,” Miranda added.
Unequal pay leaves women less secure in retirement, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported.
Women are contributing about 30% less than men to their retirement accounts each year, GAO said. This means retired women are left with less money to maintain their living standards and are increasingly relying on social security as their main source of income.
"It's just a way for the state to stand up and make our position known that we here in Ohio value women just as much as we do as men in the workplace," the lawmaker said.
Follow WEWS statehouse reporter Morgan Trau on Twitter and Facebook.