06/05/2012 02:41 pm ET Updated Aug 05, 2012

Paycheck Fairness Act: a Popular Remedy to a Real Problem

Debate over Paycheck Fairness heats up in the Senate today. But as with many other women's issues, it's far more controversial with Washington politicians than with voters.

Gender pay equity continues to be a problem, both in perception and reality. Full-time working women continue to make less than men, and the gap is even larger among minorities. A sizeable number also report experiencing discrimination first-hand. Last week Rasmussen showed about a fifth of Americans personally know someone who has been denied a job, promotion, or raise because of gender. To me, that number sounds quite high. (Note: lack of awareness doesn't mean discrimination doesn't exist. The Paycheck Fairness Act would make it easier for women to find out if there is a wage gap in their workplace. And Lilly Ledbetter's case focused on the long delay in her awareness of discrimination.)

The Paycheck Fairness Act is incredibly popular. I wrote in 2009 about many popular gender and work policies. So it's no surprise the Paycheck Fairness Act, as a remedy, is popular today. A poll from mid-May (sponsored by a pro-Paycheck Fairness coalition) shows overwhelming support for providing "women more tools to get fair pay in the workplace... and make it harder for employers to justify paying different wages for the same work and ensure businesses that break the law compensate women fairly." Nearly three-fourths (72 percent) strongly support paycheck fairness, including 61 percent of Republicans, and 69 percent of men.

What does this have to do with the War on Women? Whether it's access to birth control, mandatory maternity care coverage, the Violence Against Women Act, funding for Planned Parenthood, Republicans continue to be on the wrong side of popular policies. And the tone on the right can get particularly ugly, as when one Republican spokesman joked about "hurling acid" at Democratic women Senators. Yet women are only just beginning to notice the pattern. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll suggests a third of women feel there is a "wide-scale effort to limit women's reproductive health choices." In the absence of real cooperation on improving women's economic and health care opportunities, it's important we continue to highlight the ideological differences between the parties.