State Rep. Andrea Kieffer said Thursday that her widely circulated comment suggesting legislation about women’s workplace issues was “almost making us look like whiners” was taken out of context.
The Woodbury Republican’s remarks at a House committee hearing March 12 on the Women’s Economic Security Act went viral this week. The legislative package is aimed at improving economic opportunity for women.
“We heard several bills last week about women’s issues and I kept thinking to myself, ‘These bills are putting us backwards in time,’ ” Kieffer said at the hearing. "We are losing the respect that we so dearly want in the workplace by bringing up all these special bills for women and almost making us look like whiners.”
A sound bite of the comment circulated around the Internet, making its way to national sites such as HuffingtonPost, MSNBC, Salon.com and various political blogs, in addition to critics from Minnesota.
"Rep. Kieffer's remarks are out of touch with the realities women face," said Emily Bisek, communications director of Alliance for a Better Minnesota. "Her remarks belong in the Ice Age. It's comments like this that women have battled for decades and which Minnesotans will not tolerate."
Kieffer said Thursday that the clip was taken out of context during discussion on the legislative package.
“It’s very interesting how that spun out of control,” she said, adding that she has received “vitriolic and vulgar” emails from around the country in response to the comment.
The legislation looks to close the gender pay gap, increase income for working women, expand access to child care, expand sick leave for working families and enhance protections for victims of domestic violence.
Kieffer said pay equity is already on the books in Minnesota and that studies supporting the legislation are not comparing job sectors congruently.
“It’s not a pay equity issue,” she said. “It’s frustrating because I agree with a level playing field, but I think these bills are intended to make a level scoreboard.”
Instead, Kieffer said she supports a market-based system where compensation is tied to business outcomes.