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High Desert joins in gender pay gap debate

By Wanda Moore
Published On: Apr 08 2014 09:54:10 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 09 2014 02:16:47 PM CDT

NewsChannel 21's Wanda Moore is looking at how the difference in pay between men and women is affecting Central Oregonions.

BEND, Ore. -

The American Association of University Women hosted cookie sales with gender-based pricing Tuesday at three spots in Bend to raise awareness of an issue that had a lot of people talking (and arguing) on a day some groups have dubbed "Equal Pay Day."

A cookie was costing $1 for men, but only 77 cents for women.

Seems unfair? That's the point.

"I think it illustrates it really well," said Chris Eves, a full-time working mom concerned about equal pay. "There's a big difference, and it's not fair."

According to U.S. Census data, women working full-time make, on average, only 77 cents to every dollar men earn. In Oregon, it's slightly better at 79 cents, but that's still far from equal.

"That's a big difference," said Kelly Harrington, a Bend resident who is worried about equal pay. "Why do we have work more and get paid less?"

A woman who is working full-time has to work an average of three months more to make the same annual salary as a man.

According to the Oregon Bureau of Labor, the yearly gap in wages is more than $10,000 between women and men.

That means that Oregon women lose a combined total of more than $4.6 billion every year -- money that could provide support to the over 160,000 Oregon households headed by women.

"This impacts the entire family," said Evelyn Lamb with AAWU. "A lot of women are the bread-winners for their families."

"I think women should be in leadership roles," said Chuck Chamerlain, a Bend resident concerned with equal pay.

Oregon enacted the state's Equal Pay Act in 1955, eight years before the federal Equal Pay Act.

Critics say the often-cited figures don't account for differences like risk level (more dangerous jobs are held primarily by men), education and hours worked weekly. But President Obama insisted Tuesday, "It's not a myth -- it's math," as he held a ceremony to commemorate the day and urge Congress to pass legislation to close the gender pay gap.

But on the High Desert, supporters of such efforts insist women still do not have equal pay for equal work.

"The average of 77 cents is a 2014 number. So it persists," said Joan Hinds with AAUW.

"Women coming right out of university are offered 7 percent less than men. So it's something that compounds with years. It's not something that's over and done with," said Lamb.

COCC and OSU-Cascades are holding a workshop for women on how to best negotiate salaries and be more confident in the workplace.

The workshop is on Friday. May 2 in the Science Center, Room 190 on the COCC Bend campus.

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