Framingham Patch, News, 3/8/16

Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day. The day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, but it also marks the need to take action and accelerate gender parity.

Framingham’s State Senator Karen Spilka has been heralding women’s issues since she was first elected to the Massachusetts senate in 2005. Now, the Democrat, who represents the Second Middlesex and Norfolk District, is chair of the senate’s powerful Ways & Means Committee.

In Massachusetts, women who work full time earn approximately 80.8 percent of men’s earnings.

A report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research projects that the gender wage gap in Massachusetts will not close on its own until 2058.

“In the mid-1980s, one of my first jobs was in the state’s Office of Employee Relations working on the issues of comparable worth and pay equity,” said Sen. Spilka, last year. “It’s very disappointing that almost thirty years later, we still have work to do on these issues. If we do nothing, a girl born today would be 43 years old when the pay gap finally closes. That is nearly 70 years of inequality and injustice.”

In January, Spilka’s legislation to strengthen the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act to further close the wage gap between male and female workers in the Commonwealth passed in the state senate.

The legislation seeks to bridge the wage gap by ensuring equal pay for comparable work, establishing pay transparency and requiring fairness in hiring practices.The bill also included updates to the way a pay equity claim may be filed to make it easier for individuals to make timely claims and ease administrative barriers to filing a pay equity claim. The Massachusetts House now needs to vote on the bill.

Last month, Sen. Spilka hosted a “Lead on Leave” foum to highlight her paid leave bill and hear from U.S. Department of Labor Deputy Secretary Chris Lu and several Massachusetts employers who voluntarily offer paid leave, including InkHouse CEO Beth Monaghan.

“Massachusetts has an opportunity to be a national leader on paid family leave – no one should have to choose between a paycheck and taking care of a new child or an ill family member. We may need to take days off, but our financial obligations and the need to feed, clothe and care for our family never take a day off,” said Sen. Spilka.

“Paid leave makes good business sense – it’s great for employee retention and loyalty, and it’s actually cheaper than recruiting and training new employees,” said Sen. Spilka.

She said the leave is “a women’s issue, a family issue, a worker’s issue and a business issue. Paid leave is long overdue – it’s time for Massachusetts to‪ #LeadOnLeave‬,” said Sen. Spilka.

Monaghan, who is CEO of the Public Relations firm InkHouse based in Waltham, testified that her company offers paid family leave as a “matter of humanity.”

“While I was building InkHouse I had two children and struggled through the difficulty of wondering how to manage my maternity leave. I’d been planning to work more than I did on leave, particularly after my second pregnancy. But life had other plans when I ended up in emergency surgery. For weeks after I got home, I was unable to walk from the couch to the kitchen, and I couldn’t even think about work. That’s a story that ends well because I had an amazing team who supported me at work when I was very broken at home. So I have empathy,” Monaghan testified.

Monaghan testified that “some argue against paid leave because the costs are high. They are. But it’s about more than the hard figures, and by the way, it costs 150% of an employee’s pay to replace her, and a small fraction of that to support her on leave. This makes recruitment and retention major issues. We operate in a knowledge-based economy, which means an employee is worth more than simple manpower, and it’s hard to apply simple financial math to those complexities. This mentality must be reflected in our workplace policies. Working for InkHouse is a two-way street. If we don’t support our employees in their personal lives, how can we expect them to support InkHouse in its professional life?”

The Inkhouse CEO said she cares about the issue not only as a female CEO but also “because InkHouse’s team is comprised of 84% women. And women carry the burden of care. Policies like paid leave further the broader goal of leveling the playing field for women.”