Hey! Why Are Women Paid Less than Men Are in My State?March 26, 2014
Location, location, location. The old real estate adage also applies to the gender pay gap. According to our 2014 report, The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap, where you live has everything to do with the pay gap in your community.
Take, for instance, the difference between states on opposite ends of the pay gap spectrum: Maryland and Wyoming. In Maryland, where the gender pay gap is second-smallest only to that of the District of Columbia, women working full time were paid 85 percent of what men were paid in 2012. Worse, Wyoming women were paid just 64 percent of what men were paid in the same year. Why does the gap vary so much from state to state?
There is no single answer to this question, but there are factors that, taken together, get us pretty close to an explanation. First, the kinds of industries in a state form part of the answer. Available jobs vary in part as a reflection of industry — Wyoming is a state with a relatively large extractive industry, employing men at higher-than-average wages. Maryland has a more mixed economy with government, education, and technology among its largest employers. As men and women still tend to work in different industries and in different jobs, their opportunities and earnings vary by state.
The sector of the economy can also make a difference. About one-fifth of the workforce in Maryland works in the public sector, where the pay gap is often narrower than in the private sector.
Age and race/ethnicity play a role as well. The gender pay gap within a single group is widest between white women and white men, while the earnings of black and Hispanic women are closer to those of their male counterparts. As Maryland is more diverse than Wyoming, this difference may explain part of the wide gap between the two states.
While major industries can vary state to state, there is something everyone — lawmakers, employers, and individuals — can do to help close the gender pay gap.
- Congress needs to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, a common-sense piece of legislation that would close loopholes in the 50-year-old Equal Pay Act and give employers and employees the tools they need to help close the gender wage gap.
- Employers can make sure they are running a gender-fair workplace. While some CEOs have been vocal in their commitment to paying workers fairly, American women can’t wait for trickle-down change. AAUW urges companies to conduct salary audits to proactively monitor and address gender-based pay differences. It’s just good business.
- Women can learn strategies to better negotiate for fair pay and benefits. Improved negotiation skills can help close the pay gap and help women start off on better footing and build retirement savings.
It’s time that we value women’s work. If we truly valued all the women in our nation’s workforce and paid them fairly no matter where they live, our families would be stronger and our economy would have a brighter outlook. What are we waiting for?
Research shows I’m not the only woman who’s missed that opportunity to negotiate in my career.
Race and ethnicity have always created a dividing line in the United States, and it’s no different with the gender pay gap.
Changing the pay gap begins with you.