Gender pay gap persists even in progressive Washington

Gender pay gap persists even in progressive Washington

Washington has been progressive when it comes to issues that affect women.

More than a century ago, it was one of the first states to grant women the right to vote.

The state also was among the first to elect a woman as governor: Dixy Lee Ray in 1977.

And the state’s top federal officeholders are women, U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell.

So that’s why it’s surprising that Washington ranks low on the pay gap between men and women.

Women in full-time jobs in Washington are paid 76 cents on the dollar compared with men, according to the American Community Survey by the Census Bureau in 2014, the most recent year available.

That puts Washington at 38th in the nation, behind states like Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas. Nationally, women are paid 79 cents on the dollar.

Washington lags almost every nearby Western state, including Oregon at 82 cents per dollar made by men, California at 84 cents, and Nevada at 85 cents.

It’s worse in Snohomish County, where women in full-time jobs earn 74 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts.

The gap widens even further in the state and the county when all employees, full- and part-time, are added into the mix.

Then, women statewide make about 66 cents on the dollar and 60 cents in the county when looking at all jobs. The majority of part-time jobs are filled by women. Fifty-six percent of minimum wage jobs are filled by women in Washington, according to the National Women’s Law Center.

So why are women paid so low here and elsewhere?

“My refrain — and this isn’t very media-friendly — is that it’s complicated,” said Kevin Miller, a senior researcher with American Association of University Women in Washington, D.C.

One of the first issues that can be looked at is the types of jobs that men do and women do and how those jobs are compensated, he said.

“Truck drivers earn more than child-care workers,” Miller said. “Almost all truck drivers are male and almost all of child-care workers are women.”

This could be an issue in Snohomish County where some of the best-paying jobs are in aerospace, yet women only hold one in four aerospace jobs. This “occupation segregation” is something that women should be aware of when choosing careers, said Julie Anderson, a research associate with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

“The days of sort of following your bliss is behind us,” Anderson said “We need to be arming people with information about their earnings potential.”

That doesn’t tell the whole story.

Women are paid less than men when doing like jobs in almost every category, Census data shows. And that’s the part where it’s complicated.

Often times, women hold very different jobs in those categories, he said. And those roles with the company may be compensated differently.

Men also tend to work for decades without taking a break from work, while women tend to take time off for child rearing. And that career interruptus can put women behind in chances to move up the professional ladder.

And then there’s discrimination.

“I think one reason is that employers are still in too many instances either consciously or unconsciously setting salaries based on who is perceived to be the most committed and the most competent on the job,” said Emily J. Martin, general counsel and vice president for Work Place Justice, part of the National Women’s Law Center.

She points to a study published in Scientific American in 2012 in which scientists were given resumes for a student applying for a lab manager position.

Half the scientists were given an application with a male name attached. The other half were given the identical resume with female name attached.

The scientists, both men and women, rated the female candidates lower in competence, hire-ability and whether the scientist would want to mentor the student.

There’s also more conscious discrimination.

Miller points to the Lilly Ledbetter case. She was a supervisor at the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. in Alabama who sued the company over discrimination after being paid less than all of her fellow supervisors.

Ledbetter became a symbol of the pay gap issue after the Supreme Court ruled that her equal-pay lawsuit had been filed after the expiration of a statute of limitations.

“It’s difficult to statistically isolate how much of the wage gap is because of discrimination,” Miller said.

Progress in narrowing the wage gap has stalled in the past 10 to 15 years, Miller said. The way to change that would be to institute policy changes, such as creating laws that require mandatory sick leave, paid family leave or increasing the minimum wage, said Martin, with the the National Women’s Law Center.

Washington companies have been at the forefront of attempting to fix the pay gap. Amazon and Expedia, two of the largest corporate giants in the state, have signed onto a White House equal-pay pledge.

Amazon says that women in the company are paid 99.9 percent of what men are paid. Microsoft says that women are paid 99.8 percent of their male counterparts.

And Expedia this summer said men and women at its company are paid equally, but the company needs to do more work in promoting women to leadership positions.

Martin said she is heartened that companies are stepping up and making equal pay an issue. She said that companies also need to work to attract women.

“If a company like Boeing were to commit itself to not just paying men and women the same, but also ensuring that they’re creating pipelines into the field,” Martin said. “Closing the wage gap also requires bringing women into those equal-pay positions.”

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Business Briefs: State minimum wage rises in January

Also, Boeing workers’ donations support local nonprofits and fundraiser for businesses impacted by Bolt Creek wildfire.

Jollee Nichols, right, and daughter Ruby, 2, work on an art project together at the Imagine Children’s Museum on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
With new addition, Imagine Children’s Museum doubles in size

More than just space, the Everett museum’s new $25 million wing is an investment in mental health.

Artistic rendering of 526 Speedway exterior. (Mosaic Avenue Realty Ltd.)
Mosaic Homes looks to add industrial condo space in Mukilteo

Mosaic Homes steps into commercial real estate development with 526 Speedway, an industrial condo project.

Andy Illyn with a selection of his greeting cards, Cardstalked, that are sold at What’s Bloomin’ Floral on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022 in Arlington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Adventure-seeking cop finds new thrill in greeting cards

Mukilteo assistant police chief Andy Illyn unwinds by turning puns and dad jokes into greeting cards.

Dan Murphy, left, Mary Fosse and Rex Habner. ( / Snohomish & Island County Labor Council)
Everett City Council member honored by local labor council

Mary Fosse, candidate for District 38, receives the first annual Mike Sells Labor Champion award.

Screen printed dish towels available at Madrona Supply Company on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022 in Clinton, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Do some good along with your Christmas shopping

Head across the Sound to Whidbey Island for gift-buying with a do-gooder spirit

Shoppers walk in and out of Macy’s at Alderwood Mall were Black Friday deals are being advertised on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Go ahead, hit snooze: Most Black Friday deals are online

Braving the stores on Black Friday is still a thing, but more retailers are closed on Thanksgiving.

FILE - In this photo provided by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, a crane and boats are anchored next to a collapsed "net pen" used by Cooke Aquaculture Pacific to farm Atlantic Salmon near Cypress Island in Washington state on Aug. 28, 2017, after a failure of the nets allowed tens of thousands of the nonnative fish to escape. A Washington state jury on Wednesday, June 22, 2022, awarded the Lummi Indian tribe $595,000 over the 2017 collapse of the net pen where Atlantic salmon were being raised, an event that elicited fears of damage to wild salmon runs and prompted the Legislature to ban the farming of the nonnative fish. (David Bergvall/Washington State Department of Natural Resources via AP, File)
State won’t renew leases for Puget Sound fish farms

Cooke Aquaculture has until Dec. 14 to wrap up steelhead farming and begin deconstructing their equipment.

Kevin Flynn, right, a meat-cutter with the Marysville Albertsons, hands a leaflet to a shopper during an informational campaign on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. Flynn was one of about a dozen grocery store workers handing out leaflets to shoppers about the proposed merger between Albertsons and Kroger. (Mike Henneke / The Herald)
Proposed merger of Albertsons and Kroger worries employees

Workers at an Albertsons in Marysville urge shoppers to sign a petition blocking the $25 billion deal.

Kim Taylor, left, and Jeff Stoner co-own Greenbank Cidery, a newly opened taproom on Whidbey Island with eight varieties of cider on tap. (Rachel Rosen / Whidbey News-Times)
Cider tasting room opens on Whidbey Island

The owners of Greenbank Cidery have opened a tasting room in Coupeville. Eight varieties of cider are on tap.

Erika Heer, EVP, Chief Human Resources Officer at Coastal Community Bank
Quiet Quitting – the good, bad and what to do about it

Mid-summer, the term ‘quiet quitting’ became a part of the vocabulary of… Continue reading

Customers walk in and out of Fred Meyer along Evergreen Way on Monday, Oct. 31, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Store managers in Everett plead for help with crime, public safety

Two Fred Meyer stores report theft, drug use and threats, despite increased security and presence from Everett police.