Montana's GOP still has it wrong on equal pay

In response to today's story in the Flathead Beacon regarding the gender wage gap in Montana, please see the below statement from Nancy Keenan, Executive Director of the Montana Democratic Party:

"We already know that both Senator Daines and Rep. Zinke oppose equal pay for women in Montana, but Greg Gianforte is right there with them. Gianforte has donated thousands of dollars to groups that actively oppose equal pay for equal work legislation.

"While Gov. Bullock and Montana Democrats continue to fight for equal pay for women in the workplace, when will Republicans recognize the economic benefit to equal pay?"


Gender Wage Gap Persists in Montana
Flathead Beacon // Dillon Tabish

Women, on average, make 75 cents for every $1 earned by men in Montana

Montana’s unemployment rate is expected to keep declining in the next 10 years, but the state could struggle with a shortage of workers as the labor force ages and the Baby Boomer generation retires.

Faced with this looming problem, state economists are emphasizing the need for greater workforce participation among women, who are employed full-time at a lower rate than men, 57 percent compared to 76 percent, according to the latest U.S. Census data.

But increasing the number of female workers means addressing a lingering issue involving wages.

On average among full-time employees, women earn 78 cents for every $1 earned by men nationwide and 75 cents for every $1 earned by men in Montana, according to government data.

“The gender wage gap exists,” Barb Wagner, chief economist with the Montana Department of Labor and Industry, told the crowd at last week’s Montana Chamber of Commerce event in Kalispell.

The wage gap has improved nationwide in the last 30 years but gains have leveled off in recent years, Wagner said.

A large portion of women tends to work in lower-paying occupations and industries, Wagner said. Women are also more likely to work part-time jobs or take more time off to raise a family.

But a “cultural problem” does exist that illustrates lingering discrimination toward women, she said.

Only a quarter of U.S. business executives are female, Wagner said, citing national research. Women are 50 percent less likely to work in jobs at the top of the pay scale.

“The higher the wage, the less likely a women will be hired, even given similar experience and skills,” Wagner said.

Roughly 30 percent of the gender wage gap is due to the chosen occupation, according to Wagner. Twenty percent is due to the industries that women are more often working in, such as education, health care and professional services.

But 14 percent of the wage gap cannot be explained through economists, Wagner said.

“Generally this is the unexplained portion and it’s referred to as the discrimination factor,” Wagner said.

Wagner said women could improve their chances of higher wages through education and experience. But there is also a cultural change that needs to take place, she said.

“In this greater concept of worker shortage, having this discussion about bringing more women into the workplace is important,” she said.

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