Equal Means Equal: closing your own gender pay gap

In 2016, American women earned approximately 20% less than men. Compared to White men, White women earn 75.3%, Black women earn 63.3%, Native American women earn 57.7%, and Hispanic/Latina women earn 54.4%. These numbers are comparing median earnings of full time, year-round work between men and women. In Utah, a woman earns approximately 71 cents per dollar that a man. According to the American Association for University Women, we have the nation’s fourth-largest gender wage gap behind Wyoming, Louisiana, and West Virginia respectively. This is according to an August 2, 2017 Utah Women & Leadership Project research snapshot authored by Dr. Susan R. Madsen, Janika Dillon, and Robbyn Scribner titled, “The Gender Wage Gap in Utah.”

It is impossible to identify a single explanation for the gender wage gap due to the interconnected web of related factors, including educational attainment, recruitment practices, negotiation skills and expectations, job assignment and type of work, hours worked, occupational segregation, occupational tenure, lower earnings in traditionally female occupations, time spent on family care, and discrimination based on gender, compounded by race/ethnicity and age. The gender wage gap is a crucial component of gender equality in the overall economy and though the gap narrowed considerably from 1970–1990, largely because of increased educational attainment and workforce participation among women, the rate of progress has slowed since the 1990s.

The Wage Gap in Utah

Despite Utah having some of the fastest-growing incomes in the United States Utah’s prosperity does not necessarily extend to all segments of the population, specifically working women. Utah has unique cultural factors that may contribute to the high gender wage gap. For example, about 60% of Utahans identify as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon). Mormon culture emphasizes marriage and motherhood as a high priority for women, which is demonstrated by the fact that Utah has the nation’s highest marriage rate, the earliest age for marriage, the second- highest fertility rate, and the largest average household size. These factors contribute to the high gender wage gap since many women in the state prioritize family during their key earning years which can leave them at a disadvantage in wage potential and actual pay. Occupational segregation is prevalent, with many women clustered in job sectors that pay well below the state average. More information on occupational segregation can be found in our snapshot Labor Force Participation Among Utah Women.

Closing the Gap

In America, 42% of women are the primary or sole breadwinner in their home. Utah women contribute at least 25% of their family’s total income. Closing the gap will take more than just awareness; it will take serious action from lawmakers, employers, and individuals of all genders. To get involved engage in one or more of the following:

  • Political initiatives that make it easier to access and pay for childcare
  • Political initiatives that support family leave and equal pay
  • Initiatives that support women entrepreneurs
  • Encouraging career planning outside of motherhood for women and girls
  • Understanding the facts, and how the wage gap is not a myth

Women in Utah make up a significant proportion of the overall labor force in the state, but many are employed in low-paying jobs with limited room for advancement. Finding ways to improve various factors for Utah women in the labor force will not only better their lives, but also strengthen the positive impact of women in communities and the state.

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