Pensions provide retirement security to many workers, but one group that particularly benefits from the security of a reliable pension is women. On average, women in the U.S. make 78 cents for every $1 a man makes. This pay inequity follows women into retirement, when women are almost twice as likely as a man to retire in poverty. While the median total balance in a 401(k) account is only a paltry $18,000, women are even worse off because their median retirement income is only 59% that of men.

Unlike defined contribution 401(k) plans, a defined benefit pension provides a safe and reliable retirement for female workers. Women who retire from public service live off a modest but stable $18,000 a year on average. Since women in the U.S. live five years longer than men, it is important that they have a dependable source of retirement income for their golden years.

A recent report by the office of Senator Patty Murray confirms many of these findings. Senator Murray, ranking member of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, finds that women earn less retirement income not only due to the pay gap, but because they tend to leave the workforce for caregiving responsibilities and they work part-time jobs in greater numbers than men. The senator calls for increased access to retirement plans, among other policy solutions, as a way to increase retirement security for women.

We know that pensions provide the safest and most secure retirement for public workers, so rather than seek to gut public pensions, state legislators should follow Senator Murray’s lead and work to expand retirement security for all workers, male and female.