SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – As Salt Lake City honored 250 of Utah’s most prominent women in a new downtown mural on Women Equality Day, state leaders said we need to do better to bridge our gender wage gap. A new study showed Utah continued to rank dead last in our country when it comes to gender equality.

During a press conference Wednesday morning, the mural “Utah Woman 2020,” designed by Jann Haworth and Alex Johnstone was unveiled at 37 West 100 South. The project was commissioned by Zions Bank for its seven-story Dinwoodey building in honor of the women’s suffrage milestones that fall in 2020.

The 5,000 square foot piece of artwork featured many familiar names from the state’s past and present including Utah First Lady Jeanette Herbert, community advocate Pamela Atkinson, Representative Sandra Hollins, Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson, and Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall.

One difficulty in designing the artwork was selecting which women to include and which to leave out. Organizers said the women on the mural were selected through a democratic process, reflecting a diversity of characters and contributions. Two faces were intentionally left blank in the mural to allow observers to place the faces of women important to them, or themselves in the mural.

“It just shows that women have a real role to play in society and they stepped up to that role,” she said.

Wednesday also marked 100 years since the 19th amendment granted women the right to vote and 150 years since Utahn Seraph Young became the first woman in the modern nation to cast a ballot. While state leaders celebrated the progress we’ve made with gender equality, they also pointed out that Utah still has a long way to go.

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According to a new study from WalletHub, our state ranked dead last in the entire country for the third year in a row when it comes to women’s equality.

To put that in perspective, a new study by the Ascent women in Utah only earn about 74 cents for every dollar earned by men. The gap worsens with women of color – Latina woman make 54 cents for every dollar their white male counterparts make. Native American women make 57 cents and Black women make 62 cents on that scale.

Economists said some of the reasons include more women choosing to have children, leading to absences that hurt their tenure and experience. Other reasons include choosing employer discrimination, lower-paying careers, and having lower college graduation rates.

RELATED: Women’s Equality Day: Utah ranks 6th in worst states for gender pay gap

“You know for me, it was disappointing to hear. But also, for me, it tells me that I still have a lot of work to do and that I need to stay on the front line of working to change that,” said State Representative Sandra Hollins of Salt Lake City.

Changing that won’t happen overnight. But experts said we can start by prohibiting employers from asking about previous pay rates, but instead base wages on merit and experience.

Other solutions include electing more women to positions of power and requiring businesses to examine their pay students to provide equal pay for equal work.

On a civilian level, First Lady Herbert said Utahns can take action by calling out inequality when they see it.

“We’re all made equal and we all should be treated equal and we should all have equal opportunities and so that’s something really important to strive for,” she said.

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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