Dig Baton Rouge

LSU professor discusses senate bills

In 2016, Louisiana news has mostly revolved around the budget crisis, but last week, the discussion moved toward pay.

The Advocate reported that a Senate panel moved forward two bills, one regarding increasing the minimum wage (SB 269) and one for equal pay for employees (SB 254).

Debbie Goldgaber, professor of philosophy and women’s and gender studies at LSU, gave her perspective on these steps toward equality.

Goldgaber has a degree in economics and said she “was fascinated early on with the question of value—What is valuable to people, and what ought to be valued?”

She soon found herself drawn to philosophy, finding that economic theory was not able to answer these questions fully, or at all.

Goldgaber said she was “absolutely in support” of the bills.

“Pay has stagnated for all workers for many years, even as productivity has increased,” Debbie said. “Historically, when productivity has increased, workers have shared in the benefits, but that has not happened for at least 25 years.”

Goldgaber said a lot of progress can be made through legislation to fix past damage.

“It seems clear to me that the massive income inequality we see today is the result of policies that have been enacted over that same time frame,” she said. “And if that’s right, we can change our policies and hope to see a reversal of these trends.”

While there’s a large amount of economic inequality, a large portion of it is directed toward women, especially minority females. The AAUW recently ranked Louisiana last in terms of the pay gap between men and women, which is nearly $17,000 on average.

This type of gender inequality is something that Goldgaber recently began studying with her work in feminist theory.

“For example, it’s surprising to note how consistently the ‘feminization’ of a field leads to the devaluation of the work,” she said. “In almost any field where women enter in large numbers, the pay goes down.

“And that this devaluation—which has a very, very long history—is not going away, however much we like to imagine we have broken with the past. The good news is that other countries do a lot better than us, and we can probably learn something from them in terms of policy.”

Goldgaber has done extensive research with social injustices.

“Ensuring equal pay for equal work and making it possible for women to participate in the workforce on equal footing, is a responsibility of government,” she said. “It is a civil rights issue, and I am glad to see Louisiana taking these issues seriously.”

Despite her satisfaction with these steps toward justice, Goldgaber said it doesn’t solve everything. She believes there is a much bigger issue to deal with than policymaking.

“I think the root problem is cultural and very deep. Why are women devalued?” she questioned. “Why is it so hard for women to wield authority in our culture? Why do we tend to believe that our body is our property except when it comes to women’s bodies? These sorts of cultural issues require cultural transformation, and this requires a strong feminist movement.”

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