Third Thursday Recap: The Fight for Equal Pay

Notes from Third Thursdays event in March - “The Fight for Equal Pay” - hosted by MSP NOW.

Speakers: Rep. Erin Murphy; Rosemary Rocco of ERA MN; Jessica Clay, Employment Discrimination Attorney; Celeste Robinson, 15Now.

Moderators: MSP NOW board members Sarah Holland and Marquita Oleson.


  • Women earn 81cents in the dollar compared to men. When compared with White men, Asian women earn 87 cents, White women earn 79 cents, Black women earn 63 cents and Latina women earn 54 cents.
  • The wage gap increases with age, maxing at 55-64 years due to the Opportunity Gap (i.e. women are less likely to get promoted than men). As a result, men are 85% more likely to be in positions of senior leadership, and over 60% of women are individual contributors towards the end of their careers, compared to just 40% of men.
  • Of all the Fortune 500 CEOs, just 5% are women, 0.4% are women of color, and there are no Black women Fortune 500 CEOs.
  • Minnesota is ranked 12th in the country for gender pay equality, and 49th for racial inequality (above WI).

Things that would make a difference:

  • Salary transparency and negotiation.
    • Women need to know what their colleagues are earning. Luckily Minnesota has a law (Women’s Economic Security Act) that prohibits employers from stopping their employees from discussing how much they earn with each other. If you don’t know what other people earn, how do you know if you are being treated fairly?
    • When men get hired, they tend to be asked what their salary requirements are. Women get asked what they were paid at their last job. This is not right and women need to make sure that they are ready to negotiate. The speakers stressed the usefulness of getting training on salary negotiation.


  • Let your US Senators and US Representative know why you want them to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, S.819/H1869.
    • These two bills would update the Equal Pay Act of 1963 to prohibit employers from retaliating against an employee for discussing their salary with another employee, restrict blanket defenses by employers who argue that pay differences are due to reasons other than sex, and provide other tools to strengthen protections against gender-based pay discrimination Both Sen. Smith and Klobuchar are co-sponsors of the senate version of the bill.  
  • Raise the minimum wage
    • The average minimum wage worker is 36 years old, 38% over 40 years, and 57% are women. Raising the minimum wage would disproportionately impact women. Having secured $15 in Minneapolis, the fight is being brought to St Paul.
    • $15 Now stresses the importance of affirming that everyone deserves a living wage, everyone deserves to earn $15/hour. Every job is valuable, no matter what you do
    • ACTIONHelp $15Now in the fight for  $15 minimum wage in St Paul. Attend a meeting on April 10th, 6.30 – 8pm at East Side Freedom Library, 1105 Greenbriar St, St Paul to find out more. 
  • Provide quality childcare and family leave
    • The lack of quality affordable childcare and family paid leave contribute to the gender pay gap. Parenting needs to be seen as a shared responsibility, not just something the women take care of as well as their paid work.
    • There are 17 Fortune 500 companies in the Twin Cities, the most per capita in the US. If there was political will to provide quality, affordable child care, we would have it.
    • ACTION – talk to your legislators about how important it is to have quality, affordable childcare so that more women can work better jobs.

What else can you do?

  1. Contact your legislator and the MN Leg Leadership and tell them why bills ensuring gender equality under the law (i.e. Equal Rights Amendment) should be passed in Minnesota this year. NONE of them have been given a hearing this session and so are unlikely to make it to a vote. The bills in question are: SF 224/101 & HF 189/313. Find out more 
  2. Urge your legislators to find funding to re-open the Office for the Economic Status of Women. We need research and data collection on pay differentials to understand what the situation is, but after the Mn Legislature defunded this office last year, so no one is collecting that data now.
  3. Take part in Equal Pay Day - April 10th 2018, the day women will have made as much as men made in 2017
  4. Support business run by women, particularly women of color.
  5. Tip generously: Read this great article on workers who rely on tipping wages.

Next Third Thursday will be on April 19th at the Black Dog Café, St. Paul, 6pm – 8pm, and will be a mid-session check-in, with legislators discussing what’s happened, what’s next and what there is to do about it. For more details