Tuesday, April 17, 2012

On Equal Pay Day, Colorado’s women still fighting for economic parity

The Colorado Center on Law & Policy today will help sponsor a rally and evening social to promote Equal Pay Day, which is designed to spread awareness of the continuing gap between the wages of women and men. Equal Pay Day is held nationwide on April 17 to symbolize the extra time into 2012 that women must work to earn what men received in 2011 alone.

Colorado’s working women lose about $6,751,504,078 each year due to the pay gap, according to 9to5 Colorado, one of the main sponsors of today’s events. Visit 9to5Colorado’s website for event times and locations.

Equal Pay Day has a direct correlation with the Colorado Center on Law & Policy’s recent report, the State of Working Colorado 2012, which highlights data that show the pay disparity in our state.

The report shows that women still shoulder the primary responsibility for raising children and suffer the related economic consequences. Some women continue to be paid lower simply because of their gender, while others are penalized for balancing their careers with child rearing.We all must keep striving to foster a society in which women achieve economic equality.

Labor force participation by gender 
The labor force participation rate measures the share of the working-age population that has work or is looking for a job. The rate is calculated by dividing the number of people with jobs or looking for jobs by the total working-age population, people age 16 and older. Women are increasingly entering the historically
male-dominated labor force. However, in 2011 women participated in the labor force at a rate about 12 percentage points lower than men. (Figure 1)
In 1980, the median wage for a woman in Colorado was almost half that of a man. Since then, women have made substantial progress in raising their earnings relative to men, increasing their real median wage as much as 30 percent at the peak in 2003. (Figure 2) At the same time, men’s wages in Colorado have declined slightly.

But the gap in pay between genders has not closed. In 2011, the real median wage for a woman was only 78 percent of that for a man in Colorado. (Figure 2) And despite gains in recent years, the gap is widening again.

Occupation income by gender
The degree of income inequality between the genders varies by occupation. But, the overall picture is clear – even within the same industries, women earn less than men in Colorado. On average, women in Colorado earn 78 percent of the salary for men in the same industry. (Figure 3) Women working in legal and sales occupations face the largest income inequality, earning 50 and 65 percent of the income of their male peers, respectively. Of Colorado’s industries, women are closest to their male colleagues’ income in community and social services occupations. (Figure 3)

Women and education
Education consistently proves to be a dominant variable in determining economic security. The trend of more education leading to higher earnings is consistent across genders. Though both men and women benefit from more education, increased education does not close the disparity in median earnings. (Figure 4) In 2010, the median earnings for men without a high school diploma were almost $7,000 more than for women; moreover, the median earnings for men with a bachelor’s degree were over $17,000 more than for women with the same educational attainment. Though the numbers highlight the importance of education for economic security, women continue to earn a similar percentage of men’s earnings even as they become more educated.

Gender inequality remains
Despite great strides toward gender equality in Colorado’s economy, the data show there’s still progress to be made. Women have lower earnings than men, even in the same occupations and with the same education levels. Colorado can help close the gap by enforcing pay equity laws and by expanding requirements for equal employment opportunity reporting. These regulations aim to identify workplace discrimination and to ensure that workers are hired and compensated based on skill, effort, and responsibility rather than gender.

Created in 1996 by the National Committee on Pay Equity, Equal Pay Day is an opportunity to raise awareness of the pay gap and other economic disparities between women and men. It’s only through such awareness that societal biases and government policies will be changed to create an economy in which receiving fair compensation doesn’t depend on one’s gender.

For more data on Colorado workers, see the State of Working Colorado 2012.

Contact: Ben Felson
CC/Rice Fellow
303-573-5669, ext. 316

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