IN FOCUS Discussion: Utah’s gender wage gap

In Focus

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Even though the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963 and substantially narrowed the gender pay gap from 41 percent at the time, women in the country are still making less than men — especially women in Utah. For every dollar that men make, women in Utah make only about 70 cents — which ranks close to last when ranked against other states.

According to the Utah Women and Leadership Project at Utah State University, multiple factors influence the gender wage gap. They include occupational segregation, structural dynamics of the labor market, human capital or productivity factors, and gender discrimination and bias. Socialized cultural norms and attitudes also interact with these factors and affect women’s educational career, and work-life choices.

Even though the pay gap is substantial among all women in the U.S., researchers say it is even higher for women from specific racial and ethnic groups. According to the Utah Gender Wage Gap: A 2021 Update report, when compared with the earnings of White men, women who are Black, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander make 63 percent less. Native American woman make 60 percent less and Hispanic/Latina women make 55 percent less.

Furthermore, experts say that occupations and industries dominated by women were disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic through layoffs, furloughs, and potential exposure to the virus. Since women typically do more unpaid care work than men, they were more likely to take unpaid leave or leave the workforce altogether when schools, daycares, and other care options closed. This could lead to the wage gap widening even more in the future.

Researchers say the unexplained portion of the gap is often attributed to gender discrimination or implicit biases that affect behavior, which can manifest in workplace practices that inhibit women’s advancement. For example, men are often given higher profile or more rewarding job assignments than women and are more likely to appear on shortlists for promotions. Varying reports estimate that depending on the rate of change, it may take anywhere from 40 to 130 years to close the gap.

So what can be done on a collective level to help bridge the gender wage gap? Marin Christensen, associate director for the Utah Women and Leadership Project at Utah State University and Rebecca Winkel, senior economic advisor for the American Petroleum Institute joined ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen for an IN FOCUS discussion.

Christensen and Winkel discussed the broad overview of the gender wage gap, how much the Equal Pay Act of 1963 help bridge disparities between men and women, where Utah historically stood when it comes to the wage gap, how the gap becomes even more prevalent when it comes to women of color, the factors that contribute to the gap, why our state continually has one of the largest gaps in the country, the consequences of the gap, how COVID-19 pandemic impacted the gap, what can be done to help narrow the gap, and how long it could take to lose the gap.

To watch the full IN FOCUS discussion with Christensen and Winkel, click on the video at the top of the article.

Catch IN FOCUS discussions with ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen weeknights on the CW30 News at 7 p.m.

Rosie_Nguyen
Rosie Nguyen is an award-winning journalist who joined the ABC4 News team as a reporter in January 2018. In September 2020, she embarked on a new journey as the anchor for the CW30 News at 7 p.m. Although she’s not out in the field anymore, she is continuing her passion for social justice and community issues through the nightly “In Focus” discussions.

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