One measure of progress for women in our state, the “gender wage gap,” has improved significantly over the last eight years, and Maine’s rank has jumped to 15th best in the country. Though we have made significant progress, we have not yet eliminated the gap and there is certainly more work to do to improve this measure.

Despite this, special interest groups are targeting Republicans in the Legislature with mailings to their districts suggesting we have supported wage discrimination against women. Though it is an old, dishonest trick in politics, these mailings are even more misleading than usual.

The fact is that both state and federal laws prohibit wage discrimination based on gender, as they should. Simply stated, it is illegal for employers to pay women less than men for the same job or work.

These mailers claim that Republicans voted against “equal pay for equal work.”  This is just ridiculous, because there was no such bill. Instead, they reference a bill that prohibits employers from asking job applicants, male or female, about their salary history.

Would such a bill help women to earn higher salaries? I don’t think so. The Maine State Chamber of Commerce testified that this law could actually lead to lower initial salaries for members of both sexes rather than higher pay.

Clearly intended to mislead voters, these mailers cite the statistic that Maine women earn just 83 cents of what men earn. This statistic, however, is not a measure of equal work. It is the difference between the average earnings of all women and all men across all professions. It does not, for example, specifically calculate the difference in pay for women and men who are both retail workers, or engineers, or doctors, or truck drivers, and demonstrate a wage gap in each job.

These mailers also suggest that Republicans voted against reducing child poverty. What is stunning about this assertion is that the organization’s own website cites the Maine Kids Count report from the Maine Children’s Alliance, which shows that since voters elected Republicans to majorities in both houses of the Legislature in 2010, there has been a “steep decline” in child poverty in our state, with 15,000 fewer Maine children living in poverty today.

Child poverty is not the only important economic issue that has improved since Republicans have had a key role in statewide public policy.

Recent studies show that the money earned by businesses owned by women in Maine grew faster than that of any other state in the U.S. from 2012-2018. At the same time, Maine added 3,533 more women-owned businesses.

Today, Maine women earn more money. From 2012 through 2015 wage growth among Maine workers, including women, led the nation. Not only do they make more money, more Maine women are working.

With the state in the midst of the longest period of record low unemployment in its history, the gap between men’s and women’s participation in the labor force is lower in Maine than any other state.

The narrowing of the wage gap in Maine and our improved ranking among states demonstrates that policies put in place since 2010 are focused on real solutions to improve this issue, not some flash in the pan legislation that can be used as fodder to attack those we work with.

All Mainers, including women, are better off economically now than just a decade ago. I am proud that the ideas promoted by the Republican Party have played a major role in this turnaround and the expanding opportunities for women in our state we see playing out today.

Perhaps it is time some special interest groups celebrate this reality and focus on continuing to build meaningful working relationships that accomplish mutual goals instead of playing “gotcha” with misleading ads based on hand-picked votes in the Legislature. It is this kind of partisan misinformation that turns people off — and it should stop.

Matt Pouliot, an Augusta Republican, is in his first term representing District 15 in the Maine Senate.


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