Report: Equal pay for Utah women nearly a century away

By Annie Knox, The Salt Lake Tribune

Utah’s bright young women have dim prospects for equal pay.

The state’s infant girls may have great-grandkids by the time they start earning as much as their male counterparts, a new report concludes. If the current rate of progress since 1959 holds steady, the gender gap will close in 2102, according to a national “women’s employment and earnings” review from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

The projected 87-year wait earned Utah a “D” and landed the state in 39th place. Other elements factored in, including the rate of women in the workplace, their pay and the likelihood they will become managers.

Those pieces form “a real linchpin of well-being for the entire state,” said Anne Burkholder, CEO of the Utah YWCA.

Utah slipped two spots from a 2004 version of the study, but earned the same letter grade as 10 years ago.

“I’m really tired of looking at Ds,” Burkholder said. “I worry that people are going to begin seeing all of this bad news coming out about women in Utah and they’re going to say, ‘We can’t do anything about that.’ And it isn’t true. It’s just the opposite. But maybe hearing this bad news over and over will help galvanize us.”

TribImproving the grade would help attract more businesses to Utah, said Ema Ostarcevic, CEO and founder of Search Group Partners, an executive recruiting firm based in Salt Lake City.

Ostarcevic, who runs an all-female management team, said she returned home from New York City to help draw more women to Utah’s high-power jobs.

“It’s not necessarily that there’s a scarcity of talented women,” she said.

But male executives are more likely to appear in news coverage, Ostarcevic added, and few women find female role models in management positions.

Still, Utah has made “great strides,” she said. Several client companies have asked her team for help recruiting and retaining female executives in the past year. “But I think there’s tremendous, tremendous room to grow.”

Burkholder agreed. “We clearly have a lot of work to do.”

The report isn’t all bad news. Among employed women, Utah has the highest rate of part-time workers, at 40 percent. That could help explain the pay gap, Burkholder said.

Here’s a look at other highlights from the report, which is based on data from the government and other sources:

On the dollar • Utah women earn 70 cents to every dollar a man earns. That’s less than the average female employee in 26 other states. Washington, D.C., took first place, with women bringing in 87 cents to every dollar earned by male counterparts. West Virginia took last place with 67 cents.

Lost earnings • In Utah, an average working woman loses enough money over a lifetime to pay for a Park City condominium — starting at about $530,000 and rising to $800,000 when only women with college degrees are considered.

Management • The most recent data available show nearly 3 in 5 Utah women are working. Despite ranking in the middle of the pack for women’s earnings, the state claims a dismal 36th place for its slice of professional and managerial jobs held by women — about 2 out of every 5.

Dead last for STEM • Female workers in Utah are four times more likely to be service workers than they are to be engineers, mathematicians, scientists or high-tech workers. Utah is at the rock bottom of the pack for its proportion of women working in jobs in STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math.

The national snapshot is one part in a larger IWPR 2015 series called the “Status of Women in the States.” Further reports due out this year are set to address topics such as poverty, safety, health and political involvement. Twitter: @anniebknox