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New Initiative Launched To Close Vermont Pay Equity Gap

A picture of a $20 bill, a $10 bill and a $1 bill
Jim Levulis

A partnership of women’s advocacy groups launched a new initiative this week aimed at helping Vermont employers close the pay equity gap.

Change the Story Vermont is a multi-year partnership between the Vermont Commission on Women, Vermont Works for Women and the Vermont Women’s Fund focused on improving women’s economic status.

Change the Story Director Jessica Nordhaus says the organization has been interacting with employers since 2016 on gender equity and compensation in the workplace. That led to working with consultants to develop the new Leaders for Equity and Equal Pay or LEEP – Toolkit

“Our focus is not just on closing the wage gap but also building a more equitable community," Nordhaus said. "And I want to stress here that there isn’t just one wage gap. The wage gap for Black women, for LatinX women, Indigenous women, for women living with disabilities, for mothers, for LGBTQIA-plus individuals. And the pay gap for most women of color and women in those other identity groups is much larger than it is for white women. So this is a multi- factored approach.”

Assessing pay equity is becoming a standard procedure in business, according to consultant and toolkit creator Krysta Sadowski, and they sought a way for small to medium Vermont businesses to develop a standard framework. Following a year-long pilot with seven companies the toolkit is being launched statewide. 

“There are two main components," Sadowski explained. "There is a step-by-step guide to independently conduct pay equity assessments on an ongoing basis. Tons of tools and resources in there as well. And then the second big component is the equity management tool where you can actually input your individual company data and get back a whole series of charts that will help reveal the picture of how you’re doing.”

Vermont Women’s Fund Director Meg Smith calls the new initiative groundbreaking. 

“It came about actually through an alignment of a group of male identified allies of the Women’s Fund and Change the Story who wanted to pursue different avenues of change in trying to advance gender equity," said Smith.

Economist and Wage project President Evelyn Murphy is a former Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor, the state’s first female constitutional officeholder. She says the tool kit could make Vermont the national leader on eliminating gender and racial wage gaps. 

"All of our life we’ve heard reports about the gender wage gap," Murphy said. "When I started the wage gap was 40 cents. And for over fifty years the emphasis was and still is largely around fixing women. We must get more educated, work more, chose different professions. We’ve done all that. And still there’s this 20 cents difference. We are missing fixing workplaces.”

According to a Pew Research Center report issued last month in 2020 women earned 84 percent of what men were paid.

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