House District 22 Democratic candidate Natalia Macker says it’s her opponent and not her party that misses the point in talk about a gap in wages between men and women.
Macker, a Jackson resident, said this week that Republican incumbent Rep. Marti Halverson is wrong in her assertion in a recent op-ed and a Jackson Hole Daily story that Democrats have whipped up a fake issue as part of claims that Republicans are waging a “war on women.” Halverson disputed that there is a wage gap and said it’s job choices and other factors that hurt some women in the wage game, not prejudice.
But Macker said this week the difference in pay is a legitimate problem that warrants legislative action.
“My opponent and I differ,” Macker said.
Macker said that as a legislator she’ll work to raise the minimum wage, to introduce anti-discrimination legislation and to provide early childhood education.
“These are some of the things that could help mothers and fathers feel supported, that when they have children they don’t have to lose their job,” she said.
Legislation to help young mothers would be a priority for her, Macker said. She has an infant son and plans to have more children.
Parenting young children “is hard,” Macker said: “Doing this, I see why people decide to have one person stop working, because child care’s expensive.”
People also take time off to be with newborns for other reasons, Macker said.
“I haven’t met one person who is a parent who doesn’t wish they had more time with their children when they’re born — mothers or fathers,” she said.
The person who stops working is often the mother, because infants need maternal care early in their lives.
When women try to re-enter the workforce, Macker said, “they don’t have a salary history for the last three years, even though they’ve been working 24/7.”
For new mothers, many of whom already must cope with thousands of dollars in medical bills just to give birth, “the fear of workplace repercussion is not something you should need to be focusing on,” she said.
Working and raising young children is difficult, Macker said.
“You can work hard and do things, but if you’re working 40 hours a week, and making minimum wage, you’re still in poverty,” Macker said.
“I’m very much a product myself of working hard,” she said. “My mom was the first female electrical engineer to graduate from the University of Tennessee. She was working with only men. She got asked to get people coffee, even though that wasn’t her job.”
As a single parent, Macker’s mother taught her daughter she could do anything she set her mind to, Macker said.
“I believe the opportunities I’ve had aren’t available to everyone,” she said.
People shouldn’t have to choose between parenthood and career, she said.
“That gets to the idea that only rich people should have children,” Macker said, “and we all know that’s not true.”
There are economic reasons as well for the state to ensure women don’t suffer financially as a result of their having children, she said.
“I think empowering women is good economics,” Macker said. “It costs us more as a state to have families rely on the government than to empower those people through a living wage and supporting them as part of our community.”
State and federal figures show that for every dollar a man in Wyoming earns, a woman earns between 67 and 81 cents.