Below is a message from Lane, a worker, mom, and Working Washington member in Seattle.
My name is Lane, and I’m writing to you today to talk to you about the gender pay gap in Washington. It’s going to take a lot of work to turn things around and make progress on equal pay for women — but there’s one way we can help make it happen now.
There’s a vote coming up on HB 1506, the equal pay bill, in the Washington House. I’d like to share my own story with you, and let you know why I support HB 1506.
My daughter Emily is 16, and I was a stay-at-home mom for most of her life. But when I got divorced a few years ago, I needed to go back to work.
I have a master’s degree and I’ve held management-level jobs, so I thought I’d be able to re-enter the workforce smoothly. But I was wrong.
To keep up with skyrocketing rents and cost of living in Seattle, I spent a year working towards a paralegal certificate while holding down three part-time restaurant jobs and freelance coaching and training.
I got straight As in paralegal school and served as the president of the school's Law Association. But despite this dedication and proven achievements, it took me six months of interviewing before I landed a job in a law firm.
If you've been out of the workforce entirely for 10 years, it's really hard to get in anywhere. The job of being a mom is so poorly respected, it doesn't translate into desirable work experience at the interview table.
Mine isn’t the scariest story out there, but I feel like I’m beating my head against the wall: between entry-level legal assistant job pay and side jobs catering, I still barely scrape by. It was hard enough for me to re-enter the workforce, and for women who face discrimination based on their gender or race, it’s even harder. Many women, especially women who left the workforce to care for their families, are earning less than a living wage.
If we take steps towards pay equity, it will be easier for single working moms, and other women, to get by.
Right now, women in Washington make 79 cents for every dollar earned by a man. The gap in earnings is even more severe for women of color, who are paid just 60 cents for every dollar earned by a white man.
If we want to change that, we need to update our laws to make sure employers don’t get away with paying women less and giving them fewer opportunities. That’s where HB 1506 comes in.
The bill would strengthen Washington’s Equal Pay Act with provisions like prohibiting discrimination in career opportunities, making it illegal for employers to prevent workers from discussing their wages with each other, penalizing employers who retaliate against workers for filing a complaint, and making employers pay damages to workers if they discriminate.
I’m asking you to support this bill in two ways:
Do you have a story about how the pay gap has affected your life? Click here to share your story.
Send a letter to your state legislators so they know where Washington’s workers stand on HB 1506.
If we stand together, speak out, and share our stories, we can make real change for women in Washington. The bill will be up for a vote soon— so let’s make ourselves heard!
Thanks for your support,
Lane, Working WA member
P.S. Want to learn more about HB 1506 and the other big efforts to fight the pay gap in WA this year? Click here to check out Working Washington’s web page with more info!