Mississippi women are fighting to close the wage gap

Updated: Apr. 2, 2019 at 10:58 PM CDT
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JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - April 2nd is Equal Pay Day. It marks how far into the year women must work just to earn what men earned in the previous year.

“It’s not a myth," said Amanda McMillan. "It’s math.”

Mississippi women are paid, on average, 75 percent of what men make. Amanda McMillan was fed up with being paid less than her male co-workers who were doing the same work.

“When I asked if I may be paid the same as the men that work in the office with me, the response I got was they need to be paid more," explained McMillan. "They have families to take care of. And I immediately chuckled and said, ‘What do you call the little people I have at home? I call them my family and I am in charge of taking care of them. And I want to be paid the same.’”

Forrest City Grocery Company had also denied her requests to fill out applications for promotions, saying it wasn’t a woman’s job.

“I knew that what they were doing to me was wrong and illegal," she said. "I got to the point that it was harder for me to do nothing than it was to do something.”

McMillan filed an EEOC complaint in 2007 and that later turned into a lawsuit against her employer. They eventually reached a settlement four years later.

“I did not want this to continue to happen to other women,” McMillan said.

She was invited to the White House for the State of the Union address and several other times to share her story during Obama’s administration. But her case isn’t isolated.

“Mississippi has the highest wage gap in the country,” said Cassandra Welchlin, Co-Convener and Leader Organizer for the Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable.

That statistic about the highest wage gap in the country is according to data from the National Women’s Law Center. Mississippi is also one of only two states without equal pay laws on the books.

“Our wages are not controversial," Welchlin noted. "What’s controversial is that we’re not getting paid what we’re worth.”

There’s a push to require equal pay for comparable jobs, do away with the salary history question on job applications and set up guidelines for equal pay claims. Legislation has failed in recent sessions at the State Capitol, but Welchlin and others intend to keep pushing for passage.

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