By Sarah Swetlik, The Associated Press
Alabama women have consistently earned less than both their national and male counterparts, and even as the nation pushes for equity, earn, on average, $12,700 less than men in the state, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
This year, prior to the 2023 legislative session, the Alabama Work Force and Wage Gap Task Force is expected to present policy guidance to help lawmakers close the gap.
Rep. Adline Clarke (D-Mobile) said she was inspired to push for change after hearing Lilly Ledbetter’s story. Clarke sponsored Alabama’s equal pay law in 2019. The state was the second to last in the country to pass such legislation after various attempts spanning almost 20 years.
In April, Clarke sponsored a resolution to create the task force. The members will report their findings and any legislative recommendations to the Legislature by Dec. 31.
“As a woman, this issue is just near and dear to my heart. And after reading the Lilly Ledbetter story, I knew we needed to do something to address this issue,” Clarke said. “Being among the women, among individuals who work our hearts out, give our all, do our best — and then for her to find out that she was making far less than her male counterparts but doing the same work was disheartening and unfair.”
How much Alabama women earned over time compared to men
Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Population Survey, 1998-2020
Nationwide, women have begun to earn more over time, but pay disparities still exist at a greater rate for Black and Hispanic or Latina women.
In Alabama, both white men and white women earn more than any other group. While Asian Americans are reported to earn more nationally, the U.S. Department of Labor reports that Asian American workers in Alabama only earn $0.72 compared to each dollar a white worker earns.
Native American or American Indian workers in Alabama earn $0.95 for each dollar white workers make.
But the gap gets bigger.
For each dollar a white worker in Alabama earns, a Black or African American worker earns $0.74, and Hispanic or Latinx workers and Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander workers earn $0.72. Workers reporting more than one race earn $0.73.
“I hope it has made employers more aware of the need to be fair to women and minorities when they’re hiring people and deciding what they’re going to pay them, and that they’re not looking at salary history to determine how little they can pay them,” Clarke said of the equal pay law.
She said that the task force was waiting on appointments from Gov. Kay Ivey. Now that Ivey’s appointments have been made, Clarke said the group hopes to meet in mid-August.
Melanie Bridgeforth, CEO of the Women’s Foundation of Alabama, will chair the committee. A spokesperson for the organization confirmed that the organization is finalizing the date of the first meeting.