Equal pay for equal work, and equal opportunity in the workplace.

These are core American values, and ones that Hoosiers, with our commonsense approach, should roundly support.

Yet, Indiana is one of the nation’s worst offenders when it comes to the pay disparity between men and women.

Hoosier women in 2017 earned about 73 percent of Hoosier men’s median earnings, according to a study by the American Association of University Women. The national average for women is 80 percent.

Indiana has an anti-discrimination law to address pay disparity. In part, it reads, “No employer ... shall discriminate ... between employees on the basis of sex by paying ... a rate less than the rate at which

the employer pays wages to employees of the opposite sex ... for equal work ... under similar working conditions.” The state law includes a provision supporting lawsuits for damages. So why is Indiana a bottom-feeder — ranking 49th worst among states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico — when it comes to the gender pay gap?

There are probably many reasons, though none of them are good — historical practice, lack of law enforcement, too few businesses with internal controls to assure equal pay, and too many obstacles to women reaching higher-paying positions.

And then there are societal attitudes. Do Hoosiers really believe that women are less capable than men of doing the job well, or that they’re less deserving of compensation or promotion?

Assuming that few in Indiana still harbor such misconceptions, the only feasible answer to why women here still earn less would be that not enough people are concerned enough to promote true gender pay equity across the state.

When you consider the lifetime implications of Indiana’s pay gap, everyone should be up in arms about this.

Based on the 2017 national pay disparity, women would earn an average of about $400,000 less than their male counterparts over the course of a 40-year career, according to the AAUW study.

Indiana must have a commitment from business owners and managers, as well as leadership from the state chamber of commerce and the state legislature in 2020, to launch a statewide mission to rectify this injustice.

© 2019 Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.