UTAH – October 23, 2015 (Gephardt Daily) – Utah is the worst state in the nation for women in terms of salary and election to public office, according to a recent study by 24/7 Wall Street, a financial news and opinion company based in Delaware.
The organization found Utah women not only earn less than women in the rest of the nation, on average, but they also hold fewer than one in three management positions and occupy fewer elected positions in the legislature than women elsewhere in the country.
The study reviewed a variety of economic, leadership, and health factors to identify the 10 worst states for women. Utah trails the nation as the state with the worst gender gaps, while Oregon has the smallest gender gaps overall.
The study determined that a typical female in America earns $38,941 annually, nearly $10,000 less than the median annual salary of the average American male, which is $48,745.
Women have lower incomes than men in every state in the nation, the study found. Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, noted that even millennial women–the youngest workers under the age of 35 who tend to be more educated than their male peers–are paid less, on average, than millennial men.
Hartmann believes choice of profession is one reason for the gender inequality, a factor which also partly explains the differences between states. For instance, women are far more likely to work in service-oriented, health, financial, or education-related fields than in many other industries. In states where these fields dominate, “women will do better than they do in states that might be heavily dominated by mining or manufacturing or other forms of resource extraction like agriculture and forestry,” Hartmann said.
Despite modest gains towards pay equality in recent years, American women are still paid less than 80 cents for every dollar a man earns. In some states, the gaps are far worse.
Employees’ level of education also determines gender inequality, to some degree. Women with bachelor’s degrees are twice as likely than less-educated new mothers to take paid family leave of some kind. On average, about half of women with no more than a high school diploma do not continue after having a child.
Women are also more likely to work fewer hours over the course of their careers than men because they take more time off work to care for children than men do.Utah’s birth rate has remained higher than the national average for decades and ranks as one of the highest in the nation, according to statistics compiled by the Department of Workforce Services.
Some believe this indicates that gender disparity depends on choice about family and child-bearing alone, rather than discrimination. Men also usually have less access to paid parental leave than women, and this does not make employment factors and earning potential look favorable for women.
In terms of politics, the percentage of seats occupied by women in all but three of the 10 state legislatures does not exceed the national share of 24.4% — itself a poor reflection of the U.S. constituency.
It is even worse in state government in Utah. Of the 104 seats in the Utah House of Representatives and Senate combined, only 16 were held by women in the 2015 legislative session. Democrats held 20 seats, meaning fewer women serve in the Utah legislature than Democrats.
To determine this study’s findings, 24/7 Wall St. developed a methodology based on the Center for American Progress’ 2013 report, “The State of Women in America.” In its second year, the report used the same methodology as last year, making state rankings–and state improvements or declines–directly comparable to the 2014 report.
A range of variables was divided into three major categories: economy, leadership, and health. State rankings on each of these measures were averaged to determine a score for each category. Possible scores ranged from 1 (best) to 50 (worst). The three category scores were averaged to create an indexed value that furnished the final ranking.
The study said of Utah:
“Female earnings as pct. of male: 67.4% (2nd lowest)
Female median earnings: $34,351 (14th lowest)
Male median earnings: $50,937 (14th highest)
Pct. of management jobs held by women: 32.7% (3rd lowest)
“Utah is the worst state in the nation for women. While men in Utah tend to earn more than men nationwide, women in the state earn less than women nationwide. The difference of $16,586 between male and female median earnings in the state is the second largest in the country. The near nation-leading pay gap in Utah may be partly due to job discrimination. Women hold less than one in three management jobs in the state compared to the national share of nearly 40%. And of the 104 seats in the legislature, female politicians occupy just 16. While the state is not especially favorable for female residents, its economy is quite strong. The state’s unemployment rate of 3.9% — 3.7% among women and 4.0% among men — is the fourth lowest in the nation.”