Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Dr. Rebekah Gee praised the Louisiana State Senate for its passage of SB 254, a bill that would require Louisiana employers to pay men and women the same wage for the same work. Women in Louisiana earn just 65 cents on the dollar compared to men when performing similar work, according to a widely cited 2014 study performed by the American Association of University Women.
The pay gap hits home for Gee, who practiced as a physician before being selected as secretary for DHH. She noted that a recent study performed by the salary website Glassdoor reported that healthcare was one industry in which the pay gap was most notable.
"Beyond the moral grounds upon which I support this bill, there are also very real health-related consequences that women experience due to the pay gap," said Secretary Gee.
Numerous studies have shown that income has a direct impact on health, but many are unaware of how lower incomes affect women differently than men. One of the most significant differences is that women are far more likely to be the heads of single-parent households. Earning less than men for equal work means that mothers are less able to provide for their families' needs, including nutrition, shelter and health and dental care.
Pregnant women and new mothers are particularly vulnerable to financial insecurity, with many feeling caught between doing what is best for their own health and the health of their child and returning to work in order to pay bills and keep food on the table. Earning more would help women who are having or plan to have children in the future and their partners plan for the additional financial burden associated with having a child, including the need to miss work before and after delivery.
"As a doctor who has practiced in obstetrics and gynecology and having given birth myself, I know how difficult, painful and lengthy recovering from having a child can be," said Gee. "If we stand up together as a state and say that women deserve what they have earned, more women will have the opportunity to financially prepare for these hidden costs associated with having a child, including when complications during a birth lengthen the amount of time needed to recover."
SB 254 will be heard by the House Labor Committee tomorrow, May 12, at 9 a.m.
"I echo the governor's praise of the Louisiana Senate in passing SB 254, and I look forward to hearing that it is supported by the Louisiana House as well," Gee added. "I urge all Louisiana residents who support equal pay to support this bill with me."
The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state residents.To learn more about LDH, visit www.dhh.la.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow DHH's Twitter account and Facebook.