Utah’s gender pay gap is one of the largest in the country, USU study finds


Salt Lake Chamber President and CEO Derek Miller and Patricia Jones, CEO of the Women’s Leadership Institute, speak about the gender pay gap at a press conference on November 30, 2018. The Utah Women & Utah State University’s Leadership Project on Tuesday released a study that shows Utah has the fifth largest gender pay gap in the country. (Marisa Bomis)

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OGDEN – Utah has the fifth largest gender wage gap in the country, disproportionately affecting single mothers and women of color, the Utah Women and Leadership Project reported on Tuesday.

Women in Utah earn on average 70% of what men earn, which is well below the national average of 82%, according to a compilation of research from 60 sources.

This gap increases when you consider intersectional factors such as race, ethnicity, sexuality, parental status, gender identity and disability, found a team from the project, which is part of the Jon. M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University.

The report defines the gender pay gap as “the difference between what women and men earn for doing full-year, full-time paid work,” and notes that the gap has narrowed by 41%. when the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963. Over a 40-year career, it is estimated that women would lose between $ 80,000 and $ 800,000 because of the deficit.

In Utah, the pay gap for each racial and ethnic group of women is larger than the national average, with the biggest gap being that of Asian women who earn 87% of what non-Hispanic white men make. nationwide, more than any other ethnic group of women, and only 66% in Utah. Hispanic and Latin women earn 49%, less than half of what white men earn in Utah.

Rebecca Winkel, senior economic adviser at the American Petroleum Institute and author of the study, said in a statement that unconscious and socialized norms and biases can influence employers’ hiring, compensation and promotion decisions in ways to perpetuate the gender pay gap.

According to research, several factors play into the wage gap, such as the fact that female-dominated fields tend to pay less, offer fewer benefits and fewer opportunities for advancement; gender discrimination and prejudice; and cultural norms and attitudes. Some business practices that perpetuate the wage gap include long or rigid workdays, in-person demands, and wage history requests during the hiring process.

More than half of adult women in Utah participate in the workforce, which is higher than the national average. A quarter of Utah mothers are the primary breadwinners, and half of Utah mothers contribute at least 25% of their family’s total income. Add the fact that over half a million women in Utah are single and the poverty rate for female heads of households with young children is 40%, and it becomes evident that single mothers – and in especially single mothers of color – in Utah, bear the brunt of this economic disparity.

Because the pandemic has disproportionately affected women both nationally and statewide, and large numbers of women have had to take unpaid leave when schools and childcare options go out. children have closed, the report says the United States and Utah could see a wage gap widen in the future due to what some experts call the “divestiture.”

According to Susan Madsen, founding director of the project and one of the four authors of the study, some of the research included in the report indicates that “the work done by women is just not as valued,” citing that when women Women move into a predominantly male field, the average salary for the profession decreases, while when men move into a predominantly female field, the average salary for the profession increases.

Researchers from the Utah Women & Leadership Project address the common argument that women earn less because they choose to work in professions like teaching or nursing that pay less, but they explain that most researchers agree that women have “implicitly constrained choices” because of the culture norms, attitudes and socialization and gender biases in which women are brought up, especially in Utah.

Basically, yes, women choose these fields, but to what extent have their education and socialization chosen for them?

According to research, Utah has one of the highest marriage rates in the country, as well as the earliest age for marriage. It also ranks fourth nationally for fertility rate and first for the largest average household. Part of the reason there are so many young, large families is that Utah has very religious residents, the majority belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which places great importance on marriage. and to the family above all.

“Research also suggests that an association between the pay gap and religiosity, regardless of specific religion, is partially linked to social differentiation between the sexes. Madsen said.

Due to cultural norms and gender biases in Utah, which was recently ranked the second most sexist state in the country, women are more likely to feel pressured not to work outside the home, to doing more unpaid work like housework and childcare, not pursuing graduate degrees which might open up better paying job opportunities and be seen as less authoritarian in a business context.

The report included a reference to a Y magazine article on research by Jessica R. Preece, a political science professor at BYU, which examined why women do not speak out even if they are qualified to do so, or if they do. do, how they are not. understood.

“As a society, we have been” slowly socialized over the years to sideline “the expertise and perspectives of women,” says Brittany Karford Rogers’ article.

“To secure Utah’s vibrant economic future, it is essential to extend the prosperity and opportunity that many Utahns enjoy to everyone,” said Emily S. Darowski, Assistant Librarian at Brigham Young University and another from the study’s authors. “This will come, in part, through the concerted efforts of many stakeholders – including educators, employers, lawmakers, religious leaders and individuals – to help close the gender wage gap.”

Researchers suggest potential ways to narrow the gender wage gap in Utah:

  • Encourage young women to go to high school and pursue career goals.
  • Provide resources for women of all ages to learn how to navigate between having a family and working.
  • Assess and adjust for norms or attitudes that “suggest implications for women who work outside the home or which conflict with work and family priorities without considering that success can be achieved in both areas”.
  • Provide access to Utah organizations like the state’s new “return” program that helps women re-enter the workforce.
  • Provide access to resources such as Women Entrepreneurs Realizing Capital Opportunities, which support equitable access to finance for women entrepreneurs.
  • Offer flexible or alternative working arrangements.
  • Create and strengthen laws that support pay equity and pay transparency.
  • Provide access to affordable child care.
  • Create better family leave policies.

“Forward-thinking companies that wish to thrive in an era of heightened economic and social awareness would do well to find ways to support female talent and develop female leadership in their organizations,” Madsen said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said that women in Utah earn on average 70% less than men; they make an average of 70% of what men earn, according to research.

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