Gov. Jay Nixon signed an executive order in Kansas City Friday promoting best practices to help end Missouri's gender pay gap.
Nixon signed the order at the Women's Foundation's annual luncheon at the Sheraton Hotel. The event drew nearly 1,600 people who came to see Nixon, Kansas City Mayor Sly James and Huffington Post co-founder Arianna Huffington speak, among others.
Nixon's order directs state agencies to use preliminary guidelines that the Women's Foundation and the University of Missouri Institute of Public Policy created based on a study of gender pay inequality from 2008 to 2012 in Missouri.
Those guidelines encourage the state and businesses to determine if a pay gap exists for individual agencies or companies, address those gaps if they do exist and promote pay transparency for employees.
"We need to make sure our policies and laws catch up with the productivity [of women] out there," Nixon said. "I think we're going to find, as we look at this over the next few months, that we can do a better job of making sure we're giving equal pay for equal work."
The Women's Foundation has been working with the University of Missouri for a year now to create a comprehensive study on pay equality between men and women. They found that, on average, Missouri women make 71 cents per dollar that men make.
In some counties, like Carroll County, that number was even lower at 51 cents per dollar. Jackson County sits at 68 cents per dollar.
Women's Foundation President Wendy Doyle says creating awareness around those kinds of disparities is the first step to changing the problem.
"If there is a significant gap for equal work, let's start to look at step we can take to elevate those women," Doyle said. "There is a lot that has to be based on performance, it's not just equal position, equal pay, we do have to work for it."
Doyle said the Women's Foundation also wants to help women negotiate better contracts and salaries to fight pay inequality. The Women's Foundation and the University of Missouri plan to release final guidelines to close the gender pay gap in April 2016.
Cody Newill is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @CodyNewill or send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.