RICHMOND, Calif. (CN) - Joined by dozens of lawmakers, women and girls at the Rosie the Riverter National Historic Park, California Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed an equal-pay bill that backers hope will finally shatter the glass ceiling.
Dubbed the California Fair Pay Act, Senate Bill 358 enjoyed rare bipartisan support in both wings of the statehouse - passing unanimously in the state Senate this past month.
Authored by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, the law provides retaliation protections for female employees who discuss or compare wages with male employees and bars companies from paying women less than men for "substantially similar" work.
The legislation is the among the strongest in the nation, Brown's office said.
"Sixty-six years after passage of the California Equal Pay Act, many women still earn less money than men doing the same or similar work," Brown said at the signing ceremony. "This bill is another step toward closing the persistent wage gap between men and women."
While current law prohibits employers from paying women less than men for the same work, Jackson's bill adds the key words "substantially similar" to avoid predictable loopholes.
"Families rely on women's income more than ever before," Jackson said. "Because of the wage gap, our state and families are missing out on $33.6 billion dollars a year. That money could be flowing into families' pocketbooks, into our businesses and our economy.
"After years of dealing with a persistent wage gap, and an equal pay law that has been on the books since 1949 but that is not as strong as it should be, the time is now for women's paychecks to finally reflect their hard work and true value."
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein applauded the law, noting that women in the Golden State "earn 84 cents for every dollar earned by men" - five cents better than the national average.
"Even when women perform the same job as men, with the same level of education, the wage gap persists. We can't allow this discrimination to continue," Feinstein said.
Former California First Lady Maria Shriver - who produced the documentary "Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert" - also hailed the new law.
"Bravo to California for leading the way on equal pay," Shriver said. "This bill is a necessary, common-sense policy for millions of working women in California. But it's not just women who benefit from modernizing our laws and workplaces to require equal pay - men, children, and our families benefit too."
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.