In Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) grilled presidential candidate John Kasich about his views on immigration, gun control, the wars in the Middle East, and economic inequality — particularly between men and women.
USHCC President Javier Palomarez challenged the Ohio governor on the fact that women in his state working full time are getting paid roughly 78 percent of what men make — according to figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau. For Latina women across the U.S., the gap is even greater: just 54 percent of what men made in 2014.
Palomarez pointed out that Kasich has daughters of his own, and asked how he explains this disparity to them.
“Well, a lot of it is based on experience,” Kasich replied. “A lot of different factors go into it. It’s all tied up in skills. Do you not have the skills to be able to compete?”
Seeming somewhat shocked at this response, Palomarez asked, “Are you saying women workers are less skilled than men?”
“No, no, of course not,” Kasich said. “I mean, a woman is now running my campaign, and she’s doing a fantastic job. The head of our welfare reform office is a woman. I understand that if you exclude women, you’re not as effective.”
He added that he has worked to increase spending on education in Ohio so that both men and women can gain the skills they need to earn a decent living.
Yet Kasich did not acknowledge that the gender pay gap persists both in his own state and nationally, even when men and women have the same level of education and work the exact same job. It persists across virtually every industry. Even controlling for every factor from college major to maternity leave, economists have found a difference in pay that can only be attributed to discrimination.
In Kasich’s own governor’s office, women workers earn nearly $10 an hour less than male workers, according to an Associated Press investigation published in 2014. That gap was just $3.99 an hour under Kasich’s predecessor, Democrat Ted Strickland.
Kasich’s response to the question is well in line with his party, which has voted many times in Congress to block federal legislation to address the gender wage gap. It is also in line with conservative media, which has repeatedly dismissed both the existence of a gender pay gap and its causes.
Unlike Ohio, other states like Oregon and New York have taken steps to tackle the problem head on. And just this week, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the nation’s strongest equal pay bill into law. The unprecedented measure will require employers to pay men and women the same for “substantially similar work,” not just those who have the exact same job title, unless bosses can cite differences in productivity, merit, or seniority. The new law will also bar employers from retaliating against employees who compare their salaries.