ATHENS, GEORGIA — Facing a competitive primary race next Tuesday for Georgia’s open Senate seat, Republican Senate candidate Karen Handel portrays herself as the only Republican capable of beating the likely Democratic nominee, Michelle Nunn. On the campaign trail, she usually repeats the line, “I would really love to see Michelle Nunn drop the ‘war on women’ on me.”
But when ThinkProgress asked the candidate what she thinks of the gender wage gap, Handel did not stray from the party line, and argued the gender wage gap does not exist — because she personally has never noticed a disparity in her pay.
LEBER: Do you think equal pay between men and women is a problem?
HANDEL: No. Look, I’ve been in the corporate world for virtually my entire career and I’ve never had any disparity like that. In fact when President Obama came out he was caught with having his own challenges there the rationale he gave is exactly right. Paid wages are really based on experience, length of time in the particular position or company. All those factors come together.
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It’s been decades since the Equal Pay Act passed Congress, and women still only make 77 percent of what men make. This gap does represent a number of factors, but about 40 percent of the disparity cannot be explained by factors like education and job choice alone. Women earn less for doing the same job at the same education level, suggesting they still face discrimination at every level. Lack of affordable child care and paid family leave also makes it harder for women to stay at a particular company or even to leave the workforce entirely.
Handel also suggested to ThinkProgress that the federal government has no place setting a minimum wage. That is another issue that vastly impacts women, who make up two-thirds of minimum wage earners.
Republican candidates have been struggling to reach female voters, who have abandoned the party in recent elections. And while the party has tried to train its candidates to speak to women, its proposals on fixing issues that impact women are few and far between. Many Republicans, including Handel herself, have derided the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would help women learn whether they were being discriminated against in pay, as “lining the pockets of trial lawyers”