As wage gap struggles to close, Gov. Bullock talks equal pay for equal work

Gov. Steve Bullock signed an executive order continuing his Equal Pay for Equal Work Task Force.

Gov. Steve Bullock unveiled a new executive order Tuesday continuing his Equal Pay for Equal Work Task Force, saying female workers in Montana earn just 68 percent of the median wages earned by males.

Speaking at a Montana CPA firm that signed his Equal Pay for Equal Work pledge, Bullock said narrowing the wage gap for women would greatly increase their earning potential, lift families out of poverty, and create opportunities for a new generation of workers.

“Every single hardworking family in Montana has a stake in ensuring women and men are paid a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work,” Bullock said. “Over the last five years, Montana’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Task Force has taken steps to narrow the wage gap, and businesses have stepped up to revise their own workplace policies with equity in mind.”

Bullock launched the Equal Pay for Equal Work Task Force five years ago, though the earnings gap between men and women in Montana has only nudged, increasing from 66.7 percent to 68.3 percent.

As small as the change has been, Bullock said, it still translates to roughly $128 million in additional wages in Montana’s economy. He added that women remain “grossly underrepresented” in high-paying fields traditionally dominated by male workers.

“More Montanans are in the workforce and wages are rising, but we need to make sure they’re rising for men and women,” Bullock said. “Now is the time to put our foot on the gas pedal and accelerate the pace of progress.”

Efforts to close the wage gap failed during the 2017 Legislature. Bullock blamed Republicans for tabling the Montana Paycheck Transparency Act – something equal pay advocates contend would help address the problem.

The measure was introduced by Sen. Diane Sands, D-Missoula.