Whitmer touts gender pay gap, small business directives in Grand Rapids visit

By Brian McVicar
MLive.com, Walker, Mich.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer visited Grand Rapids Monday, touting recent executive directives designed to eliminate the gender pay gap among state workers and create more opportunities for small businesses.

Speaking at OST, a business and information technology consulting firm on the city’s Northwest Side, Whitmer said her directives will “elevate the opportunity to make a really good living here in the state of Michigan.”

“Businesses will be able to hire more workers and attract talent from within their communities, and this will put more money in people’s pockets,” she said. “When small business thrives in Michigan, Michigan thrives.”

Whitmer, a Democrat from East Lansing, has signed 10 executive directives since she was sworn into office earlier this month. They include requirements for state employees to report imminent health and safety threats — seen as a response to the Flint water crisis — and a ban on the use of private emails for state business.

During her Grand Rapids visit, Whitmer was joined by female business owners and state lawmakers, Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, as well as former Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Calley. Since leaving office, Calley has taken a job leading lobbying and communications efforts for the Small Business Association of Michigan.

He said the small business executive directive — which aims to remove barriers and increase state-government contracts with businesses in low-income areas — has been one of his association’s top objectives.

It will “identify and remove barriers that are keeping smaller companies from getting a fair shot, a level, even playing field when it comes to government contracting,” Calley said.

Whitmer also highlighted her executive directive that aims to eliminate the gender pay gap among state workers.

The order prohibits state agencies and departments from asking for job applicants’ previous salary until they are made a job offer. She said the practice “perpetuates” a wage gap by enabling “perspective employers to offer lower salaries to women than they otherwise would.”

While Whitmer’s directive only applies to state government workers — and not the private sector — the governor said it provides an important signal to the rest of the state.

“I think that the greatest thing that we’re doing is showing the world what we expect out of workplaces in Michigan, that women are not a separate group,” she said. “We are hardworking people who deserved to get paid what we should be making, what our colleagues who are male are making.”

On a per-dollar basis, there’s a 22-cent wage gap between men and women in Michigan, according to a 2018 report by the National Partnership for Women and Families.

“Compared to men, women tend to hold lower-paying jobs, work in lower-paying industries, and spend less time in the formal workforce,” the report says. “These trends result from factors ranging from pervasive stereotypes and social norms about gender and work, to a lack of workplace support for family caregiving, to gender and racial discrimination, to the devaluation of work when it is primarily done by women — and the effects are both starker and qualitatively different for women of color.”

Whitmer said she wants to work with the Republican-controlled Legislature to expand her gender pay gap directive to all Michigan workers.

“It’s something I’ll have to work with the Legislature to get done, and I know that that’s not something that will happen overnight, but it is something that I believe we can get done,” she said. “There are people from both sides of the aisle standing up here who I think could have powerful voices in that, and when women are paid what they’re worth it strengthens communities, it strengthens our economy, and it lifts a lot of kids out of poverty who are in a one parent household.”

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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