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

The Boeing factory at Paine Field in Everett. (Boeing Co.)
Could Everett become Boeing’s next jetliner headquarters?

The company is considering selling the Commercial Airplanes division offices at Longacres in Renton.

FILE - An American Airlines Boeing 737-823 lands at Miami International Airport, Monday, July 27, 2020, in Miami.American Airlines said Tuesday, Aug. 25 that it will furlough or lay off 19,000 employees in October as it struggles with a sharp downturn in travel because of the pandemic. Flight attendants will bear the heaviest cuts, with 8,100 losing their jobs.  (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)
American plans flights with Boeing 737 Max by year-end

Customers can see on American’s website the type of plane for any flight if they know where to click.

Patrick Ky, executive director of the European Aviation Safety Agency, in Amsterdam on Nov. 27, 2018. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Yuriko Nakao.
Boeing Max judged safe to fly by Europe’s aviation regulator

A synthetic sensor to aid pilots when the mechanical angle-of-attack sensors fail is still two years out.

Cop turned pinup model in Gold Bar charged with $67K fraud

Brenda Cavoretto was injured when a dead body fell on her in 2012. She’s accused of overselling its lasting impact.

Washington unemployment rate drops to 7.8%

Most job growth occurred in leisure and hospitality, construction and other services.

Premera Blue Cross will eliminate hundreds of jobs as it seeks to cut costs sparked by the current economic downturn. (Submitted photo)
Mountlake Terrace-based health insurer Premera cuts 285 jobs

The layoff at Premera Blue Cross, prompted by the economic downturn, represents about 8.3% of its workforce.

FILE - In this Feb. 8, 2018, file photo, the logo for Twitter is displayed above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.  Twitter is imposing new rules, Friday, Oct. 9, 2020,  ahead of the U.S. presidential election, prohibiting people,  including candidates, from claiming an election win before it is called by either state election officials or two authoritative, national news outlets. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
Twitter to pay $100,000 over Washington campaign violations

The company failed to maintain records related to ads that ran from 2012 through 2019.

FILE  - In this Sept. 30, 2020, file photo, a Boeing 737 MAX jet, piloted by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) chief Steve Dickson, prepares to land at Boeing Field following a test flight in Seattle. Boeing says the pandemic will reduce demand for new planes for the next decade, long after experts expect a vaccine for COVID-19. The company updated its forecast of the airplane market on Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020. It remains upbeat about long-term prospects driven by increasing air travel in Asia. Boeing, which along with Europe’s Airbus dominates the aircraft-building industry, has seen orders and deliveries of new planes crumble this year. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Boeing’s struggles continue: No jetliner sales in September

The company has suffered 448 cancellations for the Max and dropped another 602 orders from its backlog.

Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President of the EU Commission, speaks at a press conference in Berlin, Germany, following the informal talks of the EU Trade Ministers on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020.  (Bernd von Jutrczenka/Pool via AP)
Rule: EU can impose $4 billion in tariffs over Boeing support

Tax breaks for Boeing from Washington state were deemed to have unfairly harmed certain Airbus jets.

Kellie Shanahan loads Jacob McGovern's vehicle with his class tool bag at Meadowdale High School in Lynnwood on October 1, 2020.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
How do you teach auto shop remotely? Edmonds class finds out

For some local high school students, auto shop is the thing that keeps them from dropping out.

Newly certified teacher Shana Brown assists a student with a Zoom meeting, while overseeing a class of seven students, in the former warehouse space at Malicious Women Candles on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020 in Snohomish, Washington. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
For some Snohomish County kids, a warehouse is a schoolhouse

Employers made space for students to attend virtual classes on-site. But at least one learning pod had to shut down.

FILE - In this  July 8, 2009, file photo, a worker dries a car at Seattle's famous Elephant car wash, near the Space Needle in Seattle. Seattle's iconic pink elephant sign soon will have a new home. The Seattle Times reports the Elephant Car Wash on Battery Street near Denny Way will close permanently, the company announced in a news release Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Seattle’s Elephant Car Wash to shutter, pink sign to be saved

Rumors have swirled surrounding a demolition permit for the site was filed Oct. 7.