05/12/2016 05:34 pm ET Updated May 13, 2017

Pay Equity in Our Lifetime? Only If We Act Now

The gender pay gap has been stalled at approximately 20% for more than a decade. Based on the progress we have made to-date, it is projected that it would take until the year 2058 to achieve pay equity.

This issue requires immediate action, and in Massachusetts, we are taking it. In January, the Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed S.2119 An Act to Establish Equal Pay. This key piece of legislation can and should be replicated in state legislatures all over America.

The statistics are clear. Women who work full time earn approximately 80.8% of what men who work full time earn. The wage gap is much worse for women of color. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, African American women earn 66 cents for every dollar earned by men, and Latina women earn 54 cents for every dollar earned by men.

S. 2119 seeks to achieve pay equity by closing the wage gap in three critical ways:

1. Clarifying terminology in the state's existing Equal Pay Act of 1945 by including a more comprehensive definition of comparable work, enabling employees to negotiate their compensation in accordance with industry standards.
2. Promoting pay transparency by adding provisions that allow companies to resolve unwarranted disparities in compensation without employees filing complaints or lawsuits.
3. Protecting employees from termination for discussing their compensation with their coworkers and colleagues.

For more than a century, Simmons College has been preparing women to lead change that impacts families, communities and the world. Our focus on women's empowerment began over 100 years ago with our founder John Simmons's revolutionary idea - that women should be able to earn independent livelihoods and lead meaningful lives. Key to achieving this goal is passing legislation like S.2119 that will allow employers to achieve wage parity and build on diversity and pay equity efforts already underway at many companies and organizations.

Simmons applauds the leadership of our local legislators, and celebrates the endorsements of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and the Boston City Council. I encourage engaged citizens everywhere to take similar action in your hometowns, build successful coalitions, and advance legislation like S.2119. We simply cannot afford to wait another day to make pay equity a reality in America.