What Does ‘Equal Pay Day’ Mean for Kentucky Women, Especially Minorities?

President Obama penned a pair of executive actions on Tuesday tied to “Equal Pay Day,” acting on an especially important issue for Kentucky women of all races and ethnicities.

The wage rates along gender lines overall are telling.

In the Bluegrass state, women earn 24 cents less than their male counterparts despite their growth in the workforce over the past three decades.

The participation rate for working-age women in the state’s labor force has increased by six percent from 1981 to 2011, according to the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.

Those same reports show men in the workforce have dipped by nine percentage points over the same period. Yet when annual earnings are compared there’s a $10,000 gap in Kentucky between men and women.

A 2012 fact sheet by the National Women’s Law Center shows women in the commonwealth make on average $32,150 while men made $42,300 annually.

The numbers are even worse when African-American and Hispanic women’s wages are taken into account.

In Kentucky, black women and Hispanic woman make 69 cents and 58 cents respectively for every dollar a white man earns. Interestingly, when women of color are compared to men within their race/ethnicity both black and Hispanic women earn 89 cents for every dollar.

The issue found its way into Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race where Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes has made the gender pay gap a central pitch of her bid to unseat Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell this year.

The Grimes campaign pounced on McConnell over a floor speech where many said the GOP leader was calling the wage gap issue the latest Democratic “obsession” and blowing “kisses to their powerful pals on the left.”

McConnell’s senate office said he was referring to Democratic speeches about the Koch brothers and not “Equal Pay Day,” and some media outlets ran a clarification

Asked if their earlier statement that McConnell has mastered insulting Kentucky women still stands, Grimes campaign spokeswoman Charly Norton said: “Seeing as Mitch McConnell continues to insult Kentucky women by voting against the Lilly Ledbetter Act, Paycheck Fairness Act, and Violence Against Women Act, our sentiments remain the same.”

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