Huffpost Chicago

Illinois Ranks 41st In Pay Equity Between Men And Women: Report

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While some are celebrating 4/20 in light-hearted and dubiously legal ways, the National Committee on Pay Equity has claimed the day as a chance to bring attention to a far more serious concern: unequal pay for equal work.

The date was chosen because women in America would have had to work this far into 2010 to earn what men earned in 2009.

And according to a report from the American Association of University Women, Illinois is one of the worst states in the union in matters of pay equity.

Among full-time workers ages 16 and older, men in Illinois are paid an average of $50,022. Women make $36,968.

That ratio of 74 cents on the dollar ranks 41st in the nation. Wyoming is worst; women in that state earn 64 percent of what their male counterparts make.

The report also considered only college-educated workers above the age of 25. In this category, Illinois fared slightly worse, with the average female wage at 71 percent of that of men. Still, Illinois was only 33rd in this category, and right on par with the national average for this group.

State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie introduced a bill to the State House designating today as Pay Equity Day across the state. She told HuffPost Chicago she was surprised by the AAUW report, but said that the state and the nation still have a long way to go on pay equity.

"We need basic protections against discrimination in the workforce, giving women an adequate opportunity to be hired and be promoted," Currie said.

The Obama administration made pay equity one of its first legislative priorities. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which overruled a Supreme Court decision limiting women's abilities to file equal-pay lawsuits, was signed by the president barely a week into his term.

And the state of Illinois has also taken some steps in recent years to protect equal pay, Rep. Currie said.

"There is some language in the federal statute that allows for lawsuits to be filed if Sammy is getting paid more for doing the same work Sally's doing," Currie explained. But a "significant number of people in Illinois were not covered by the federal act," so the state passed laws extending the same coverage to Illinoisans.

Still, it's clear that in Illinois, Sally has a ways to go before she catches up with Sammy. 26 cents on the dollar, to be precise.