Equal Pay Day highlights Utah’s large gender wage gap

Posted at 8:04 PM, Apr 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-02 22:04:06-04

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah has the second-largest gender wage gap in the country, with women earning just 71 cents to a man’s dollar, compared to the national average of 80 cents.

Utah is second to Louisiana in terms of the highest gender wage gap in the country. In Louisiana, women earn 68 cents for every dollar earned by their male colleagues.

April 2 marks Equal Pay Day, a symbolic day dedicated to raising awareness of the gender wage gap issue.

Regardless of the industry you work in, one thing holds true across the board and country – if you are a woman, you are probably earning less than your male counterpart.

“Utah is not sitting pretty in terms of the gender wage gap,” said Anne Burkholder, the CEO of YWCA Utah. “If Utah continues to have a reputation for not paying women as much as men, that’s going to make us a less attractive place,”

Department of Workforce Services economist Hope Morrow said two major components contribute to the gender wage gap in Utah: career choice and motherhood.

“We see a lot of women that choose specific occupations and a lot of men that choose other occupations and those occupations that men choose tend to be on the higher wage spectrum,” Morrow said. “In Utah specifically we see women somewhere in their 20s or 30s leave the workforce to bear children, and then when they return to the workforce, they’ve sort of missed out on that period of their career."

YWCA Utah, a female empowerment group, believes the gap in pay is doing more harm than people realize.

“It has an impact on [women’s] lifetime earnings, it has an impact on their retirement, but it also has an impact on their families in terms of what they’re able to bring in,” said Burkholder. “I think if people understood what kind of impact it had on their own families, on their own daughters, on their own wives, they might take it a little bit more seriously."

The gap can be closed through things like policy change on a state and local level, as well as change within individual companies.

“I think Utah is in its own process and we’ll get there when we get there,” Morrow said.

However, policy change is a lengthy process, and businesses are not required to ensure fair wages.

“It will be well into the 22nd century at our current rates before that gap is closed,” Burkholder said.

The Salt Lake Chamber released a statement Tuesday saying:

“Utah leads the nation in economic growth, and yet in 2019, we still top the list of states with the highest gender wage gap. Today, on Equal Pay Day, the Salt Lake Chamber once again calls on Utah's business community to make the conscious decision to evaluate and address the gender wage gap within their own organizations,” said Derek Miller, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber and Downtown Alliance. “Our business community has the opportunity to lead out on this issue and show Utahns, and the nation, that we value equal pay for equal work. we have the power to correct the problem. “