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Gov. Eric Holcomb’s 2018 Pillar III of his Next Level Agenda states, “Indiana must build the 21st century talent required to sustain our prosperity and competitive edge as the world economy changes.”

Indeed, governor, we agree. Nevertheless, Indiana ranks as one of the states with the widest wage gaps between men and women.

How can Hoosier women participate in taking Indiana to the next level when they earn only 74 percent of what a man in Indiana makes for similar work? For minority women, this gap is even larger: 36 percent for black and biracial women and 44 percent for Latinas, according to the Indiana Institute for Working Families.

Women lose about $1 million over a lifetime when accounting for fewer Social Security dollars and time spent away from work for family care. Women in the workforce are significant indicators of economic growth.

Holcomb wants talent to stay in Indiana. He needs to make sure Hoosier women are not moving to neighboring states, where there is less of a wage gap for women: Kentucky at 80 percent, Illinois at 79 percent, Michigan at 78 percent and Ohio at 77 percent.

We cannot attract women to Indiana for jobs when surrounding states are doing better. When Hoosier women do better, Indiana does better.

This gap is not a myth; it is an indicator of economic inequity. Wherever women work, it is necessary for them to have salaries comparable to men.

Women in Indiana are ready for pay equity, now!

State Rep. Linda Lawson and state Sen. Jean Breaux filed legislation that would strengthen Indiana law that has not been updated since 1965.

House Bill 1390 and Senate Bill 93 hold employers accountable and give the Civil Rights Commission the jurisdiction to investigate and resolve complaints received by employees.

If you want Hoosier women to receive equal pay, call your state senator and representative and ask them to vote "Yes" on House Bill 1390 and Senate Bill 93.

We must do better. This is not just a women’s issue. It’s an economic issue. It’s a societal issue. It’s a civil rights issue.

Holcomb, during the State of the State, said, “It is Indiana’s time; take Indiana to the Next Level; transform lives.”

Women are essential to take Indiana to the next level. Women are essential to transform lives. We expect better now.

Sherry Watkins is co-president of the American Association of University Women and part of the Equality Pay$ Coalition of Indiana. The opinions are the writer's.

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