Democrats in the U.S. Congress introduced a bill on Wednesday morning to ensure equal pay for women and transparency from employers.
The legislation would require employers to prove that current pay disparities between the sexes are job-related.
Women make up nearly half the workforce in the United States and earn more college degrees than men each year, according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR), which conducts research on social science and analyzes policy.
On average, white women working full time earn 80.5 cents for every dollar earned by a white man in the same position. Black women earn 61 cents, and Hispanic women earn 53 cents for every dollar earned by a white man.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut has introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act to every sitting Congress since 1997.
"For more than two decades we pushed, we battled to strengthen the 1963 Equal Pay Act," DeLauro said to members of Congress. "Nothing is more right, and nothing would make more of a difference to working families in this country."
The bill also prevents employers from firing or retaliating against employees who discuss pay, and it prevents employers asking candidates about prior salaries so new salaries are not based on prior discrimination.
Additionally, it supports employers by implementing wage data collection technologies and salary negotiation training programs for female employees.
Economic boost predicted
Enforcing equal pay for women would add $513 billion to the national economy and cut poverty in houses with working women in half, according to an IWPR report.
If this bill or subsequent bills fail to pass, the IWPR predicts it will take until 2059 for white women, 2119 for black women and 2224 for Hispanic women to reach equal pay with white men.
This version of the bill was introduced before the most female Congress in history, on the 10-year anniversary the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that allowed workers to challenge pay discrimination in the courts.
Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership, a nonprofit organization that fights for policies to improve the lives of American women, spoke before Congress on behalf of the bill.
"If we're going to prioritize the concerns of the women across this country, then we have got to do more than just think about the wage gap," Ness said. "Join us in this fight."