Utah has the second-worst gender wage gap in the U.S., according to the United States Congress Joint Economic Committee.
Their report puts Utah behind every state, including the District of Columbia, with the sole exception of Louisiana. Women in Utah make an average of 71 cents for every $1 made by men, lagging behind the national average of 80.5 cents per dollar.
The news has lawmakers in the state scrambling for solutions. And this year, the Salt Lake Chamber and The Women’s Leadership held a press conference on Friday to address the problem, announcing the release of their “Best Practices Guide for Closing the Gender Wage Gap.”
KSL Newsradio’s Dave & Duajnovic spoke with Deseret News’s Jasen Lee about the conference and about what he thinks can be done to put an end to Utah’s wage gap problem.
Closing the Gender Wage Gap
The solution, Lee says, lies with men; especially male employers. He says: “Men have to become allies or advocates for all employees, regardless of gender.”
Business owners, according to Lee, don’t always realize how big the gender wage gap in Utah really is. Even employers who don’t consciously discriminate against female employees can have implicit biases that might be affecting wages without their realizing it.
“Review all of your pay and salary criteria,” Lee says. “Make sure they’re even.”
Some of those issues might not be as obvious as a blatant policy to pay women left. Instead, the wage gap might be caused by problems that indirectly affect women’s wages, such as salary negotiations and taking time off work to care for children.
Women are far more likely to take time off work to care for children. According to the Pew Research Center, 39 percent of mothers say that they have taken a “significant amount” of time off to take care of their families, compared to just 24 percent of men.
A lot of that has to do with social pressures. The same study found that 88 percent of Americans do not believe that women with young children should work full time.
Lee, however, believes that women shouldn’t be penalized for taking care of their families.
“[Family] is something, in Utah, we espouse greatly. We want our families to be the first and most important things in our lives,” he says. “So should we, then, penalize the people who put the most responsibility in maintain that family?”
Lee argues that it is not a given that women should be paid less for taking time off to care of the kids. “It depends on the mindset of the employer,” he says.
“There’s always going to be people that want to argue that there’s all these varieties of reasons why women are paid less, but what you can’t really argue is that they do make less,” Lee says. “It doesn’t matter why. … Everybody should be paid the same if they’re doing the same job.”
More to the story
You can hear Jasen Lee’s full interview with KSL Newsradio on the Debbie & Dujanovic podcast.
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