Minnesota bill, if passed, will promote gender equality

In the U.S., for every dollar a man makes, a woman makes 77 cents.

Democrats in the Minnesota legislature, led by Speaker of the House Paul Thissen, seek to narrow this gender gap by introducing the Women’s Economic Security Act of 2014.

“(The act) aims to break down barriers to economic progress so that women — and all Minnesotans — have a fair opportunity to succeed,” said Thissen in a press conference on Jan. 30.

If it passes, the act would make childcare more affordable by removing the $5,000 cap on early-learning scholarships. As a result, mothers could spend time at home caring for their children while simultaneously pursuing their careers.

“I have a small child myself and know how expensive preschool can get, so this would be amazing for working women,” said Assistant Professor of Economics Natalya Shelkova.

Many women who earn low wages lack job security and find it difficult to return to their jobs after a pregnancy.

“I would feel much better about having a baby if I didn’t have to quit my job to do so,” said Wendy’s employee Silvia Theresa, who is three weeks pregnant with her second child.

The act would also expand unpaid leave from six to 12 weeks and provide paid sick and safe leave for women.

“That would be wonderful for women like me … who need to immediately start working after they have a baby,” said Theresa. “Having no job certainly makes me worry about having enough money to feed two growing children.”

Legislative reforms within the act also aim to prepare working women for the future by facilitating female entrepreneurs’ business development in male-dominated industries.

“I would love to see my daughter encouraged to deviate from the norm and go into a field like computer science,” said Theresa.

Shelkova sees this program as a good investment in Minnesota’s economy.

“Helping women obtain higher-paying jobs would increase the tax base and result in more spending,” she said.

The act would also require private businesses that contract with the state government to report on pay equity within their workforce.

“It’s only fair that women make the same amount of money that men do when they’re doing the same job,” said Early College senior Sydney Stanley. “Other businesses could follow suit when they see that pay equity would attract many people — women and men — looking for a non-discriminatory working environment.”

Associate Professor of Economics Maria Rosales sees a lot of strong points in the bill but notices one weakness.

“People … think that a resume that appears to be from a mother is less impressive than the same resume that appears to be from a father,” said Rosales in an email interview. “The plan set out in this bill probably will not do much, if anything, to address the issue of subtle but pervasive discrimination.”

Should Minnesota pass the Women’s Economic Security Act of 2014, the citizens of other states could demand the same from their legislature — perhaps even of the U.S. Congress.

“It’s definitely a good step forward,” said Shelkova.