RE: Equal pay for women: Did I wake up in Utah or the Twilight Zone?
Utah’s landscape is among the most iconic in the country. We boast having three of the top 10 ski resorts in North America. The Beehive State was awarded the best state for business by Forbes six of the last seven years. It has been ranked in the top 10 for state business tax climate and a low regulatory environment. The Pew Center named Utah “Best-managed State.” Utah has two cities named in consecutive years as the best city to live in by Outdoor magazine. Utah is a picture-perfect postcard image of gleaming cities, majestic mountains and perpetually smiling residents with a growing economy. Yet for women, a group that makes up 44 percent of the state’s workforce, Utah’s stunning landscape represents a gilded cage. A cage fortified by the arcane views of some like John Green, Wasatch County GOP Party Chair. In his letter to the Park Record editor Green wrote, “If businesses are forced to pay women the same as male earnings, that means they will have to reduce the pay for the men they employ, simple economics. If that happens, then men will have an even more difficult time earning enough to support their families, which will mean more Mothers will be forced to leave the home (where they may prefer to be) to join the workforce to make up the difference.” Where Mr. Green studied economics and English is unknown.
A 2013 study by 24/7 Wall Street on the status of women in America ranked Utah #1 as the worst state in the nation for women. 24/7 Wall Street is not alone in its findings. A 2013 study of women’s economic security, career opportunities and health by the Center for American Progress graded Utah an “F.” By 2016, Utah “improved” in the rankings moving from the worst state for women to the 4th worst state. The typical male worker in Utah is paid $50,741, while his female counterpart earns $36,060, or nearly $15,000 less.
On average, Utah women earn just 70 percent of their male counterparts for comparable work. On the 2013 list of top 10 worst cities for pay equity for women, Utah has two cities that rank #1 and #2.
It would be nice if these and other similar studies were simply collections of ivory tower arcana to be read, filed away and then forgotten. But they’re not. They spotlight an inequity that is a drag with far-reaching consequences on our state’s economic future. The “little woman” as stay at home wife, mother and homemaker epitomized by family sitcoms of the 1950s and 1960s was an idealized image even then. Today, in the 21st century, it’s as relevant as the buggy whip.
Pay inequity for women hits families where it hurts most: the pocketbook. A lower income means less money for food, clothing, and shelter for the family, and turns other necessities like health care into luxuries. A single mom leads 7.3% of households in Utah.
The top ranking of pay inequity for working women in Utah has corrosive long-term affects on businesses in the state. It means businesses have a harder time attracting and retaining female middle and upper management professionals. Though women make up 44 percent of the workforce, women only hold 8.4 percent of board positions in Utah’s top 45 public companies, and 25 of those companies have no women directors and 17 have just one.
The women of Utah have the power to change things, the power to help move Utah from first to last and get an “A” for the state. Fundamentally, it’s the power of the informed vote. By voting, we women of Utah have the power to bring change that improve the lives of everyone, men and women, young and old, who live and work in Utah.
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