CANTON — State Representative Kristy Pagan (D-Canton) held a forum discussion yesterday on the issue of the gender wage gap. The event coincided with Equal Pay Day, the point when women’s earnings catch up to men’s from the previous year. On average, women in Michigan make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. For women of color, the gap is more pronounced.

“It’s been more than 50 years since the passage of the federal Equal Pay Act, but at the rate we’re going, we won’t reach pay equity until 2086. We need to take action now,” Pagan said. “My Democratic colleagues and I have introduced legislation to help close the wage gap and finally bring fairness to the workplace.”

Pagan also introduced a resolution to declare April 14, 2015, Equal Pay Day in the state of Michigan. The resolution passed with bipartisan support.

At the forum, Pagan gave statistics about the wage gap and updated attendees about pay equity legislation. One of her guests, Plymouth-Canton government teacher Jennifer Bennett, spoke about the history of the wage gap and women’s economic struggles. Pagan’s other guest speaker, Nyeeyah Waldron of the University of Michigan’s Center for the Education of Women, spoke of her time in the corporate world. She once accidentally saw the paycheck of a colleague she had trained for his position and learned he was earning significantly more than her.

Pagan, Bennett and Waldron took questions from the audience about the reasons behind pay inequality and what individuals and government can do to fix it. The panel discussed that educating young people about the wage gap and working to correct outdated attitudes and assumptions about gender are some of the most important steps we can take to realize pay equity.

“Equal pay for equal work goes beyond simple fairness — when women are paid what they deserve, they can support their families and spend more money in the local economy, helping small businesses create jobs,” Pagan said. “I will continue fighting to eliminate the wage gap because Michigan’s women deserve to be fully compensated.”