MT task force meets ahead of Ledbetter speech, Equal Pay Summit


BOZEMAN, Mont. - A state task force is tackling the issue behind why women earn less money than men, for working the same job.

Last year, Governor Steve Bullock signed an executive creating the Equal Pay for Equal Work Task Force, after announcing that Montana women make 67 percent of what men make.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, national legislation on the issue began when President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law in 1963, to help raise women's wages. At the time, women were earning an average of 59 cents to every man's dollar.

Today, 51 years later, that number is 81 cents -- 14 cents higher than in Montana, which ranks 39th in pay equality in the nation.

On Monday, the task force discussed ways the legislature can take action to help close the gender wage gap, and how to educate women to successfully negotiate higher salaries and raises.

They also dove into topics like paid family leave and child care.

"We're encouraged that all of Montana is paying attention to this really important issue," said task force Co-Chair and Commissioner of Labor and Industry Pam Bucy.

The meeting coincides with a presentation by Lilly Ledbetter at Montana State University, which kicks off the governor's Equal Pay Summit.

Ledbetter is famous for her fight for equal wages that led Congress to pass a law with her name in 2009. The law gives victims of wage discrimination more time to file a lawsuit.

"We didn't have to do much to get that many people involved," Bucy said, about Ledbetter's presentation. "From three to four hundred people already signed up to come, so we're real excited about it."

Ledbetter spoke at 6:30 Monday night at MSU. The Equal Pay Summit runs all day on campus on Tuesday.

The task force meeting and summit are just ahead of the National Equal Pay Day, which symbolizes how far into the year women must work to match what men worked the previous year. This year, it's Tuesday, April 8.