Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you probably know that the wage gap in the U.S. hasn’t budged in the last decade, and that women still get paid 77 cents, on average, for every dollar paid to a man. One southwestern state is taking the lead on closing this gap. New Mexico – the Land of Enchantment – is the home of the yucca flower, the black bear, thriving Hispanic culture, and now groundbreaking fair pay legislation!

In New Mexico, women typically make only 79 cents for every dollar a man makes. African American and Hispanic women do considerably worse: at 60 cents and 53 cents, respectively. In an effort to close this gap, Governor Susana Martinez of New Mexico signed the Fair Pay for Women Act into law on March 16, 2013.

Equal Pay and New MexicoSource: Fair Pay for New Mexico’s Women, Organizing for Action

New Mexico’s fair pay efforts got rolling several years earlier when then-Governor Bill Richardson created the “Fair and Equal Pay for All New Mexicans Initiative” by Executive Order with the goal of “identify[ing] and combat[ing] pay inequity and job segregation.” The same Order created a Fair and Equal Pay Task Force to research pay disparities within the state and provide recommendations. The Task Force delivered its recommendations in a report in 2009, including: (1) collecting data and reporting on equal pay; (2) non-retaliation legislation; and (3) training and placement services to decrease occupational segregation.

The state has not yet implemented all of these recommendations, but it has taken a number of steps to decrease the wage gap. The new Fair Pay for Women Act makes it easier for women in the state to challenge unfair pay systems and prohibits retaliation against workers who file claims. Following the recommendations of the Task Force, the state implemented a reporting system that requires any companies wishing to contract with the state to provide pay equity reports.

On Equal Pay Day – the day when women’s wages finally catch up to men’s from the previous year – we could all use some good news. My good news for the day? New Mexico’s fair pay initiative. State-level efforts like New Mexico’s are crucial to closing the wage gap, once and for all. Pass it on.

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