The roundtable discussion, held at the BT&T bank building in West Tampa, included representatives from several local women worker organizations, The Junior League of Tampa, and local restaurateur Maryann Ferenc, co-owner of Mise en Place Restaurant in Tampa.
The roundtable coincided with Tuesday’s vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act, a piece of legislation aimed at reinforcing the provisions of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which requires employers to give “equal pay for equal work” between men and women. Under the Paycheck Fairness Act, employees would be protected against retaliation against discussing salaries with colleagues, and employers would be required to prove that pay discrepancies between workers are legitimate and not related to gender.
Castor told CL before the discussion that although the Equal Pay Act did lead to a gradually closure of the pay gap over several decades, not much progress has been made within the last 10 years. According to statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, on average U.S. women made 77 cents to a dollar that a man made in 2009.
Regarding one of the bill’s objective to allow workers to discuss wages, Castor said that many women do not realize wage disparities compared to their male coworkers because of company policies that prohibit discussing income and salary. Castor said that such policies are unfair and discourage discovery of in equal pay scales.
“How else are you gathering the knowledge that you are doing the same job but not getting the same paycheck?” said Castor.
The gap between median yearly pay between men and women in Florida fares just slightly better than the U.S average, with female workers earning 80 cents to a man’s dollar. Nationally, women make 77 cents to every dollar a man makes. The disparity widens across race, African American and Hispanic women in Florida make only 62 and 54 cents, respectively, for every dollar a white, non-hispanic man makes. In the roundtable, community business leaders parlayed ideas on how female workers can become aware and act on income equality without having to fear for their jobs.
“I know the ladies that I deal with are not aware,” said Alice Thompson, program manager for employment services at the Centre for Women in Tampa, “and they are not going to speak until their encouraged to speak out.”
Darden Rice, president of the League of Women voters of St. Pete, suggested education for Human Resources departments so they understand that they have an obligation to uphold fair wages and women don’t feel like whistle-blowers when they come forward.
“This not just a male vs. female dichotomy, this is something that hurts families," Castor said, adding the
that the law needs to modernize and join the 21st century, as women are increasingly become the heads of households.
After the meeting, Frances Wimberly, president of Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corporation, told CL about her first-hand experience with pay inequality while working at a bank, where male colleagues often were paid more and were moved up the ladder more swiftly. She is especially keen on the part of the Paycheck Fairness Act that would have encouraged programs that teach wage negotiation skills to women.
“I’m very outspoken and If I had sat back and said ‘oh, ok’, I wouldn’t have got that [wage] increase,” said Wimberly.
The act had passed the house in the last two sessions, and Castor said was hopeful that her GOP colleagues would rise to the occasion, despite the lack of Republican sponsorships. Later in the afternoon, the Paycheck Fairness Act failed in the Senate, falling 8 votes short of the necessary 60 votes to move it forward.