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Colorado women and the persistent pay gap

Business thought leaders weigh in on reasons, solutions for pay inequality

Nora Caley //July 14, 2016//

Colorado women and the persistent pay gap

Business thought leaders weigh in on reasons, solutions for pay inequality

Nora Caley //July 14, 2016//

Nationally, women earn 79 cents for every dollar men take home, when comparing full time, annual wages. Hillary Clinton, as the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, says she wants to boost women’s pay to be equal to men’s. (Republican candidate Donald Trump has not made any announcements on the fair pay issue, to date.) In Colorado, women earn 80 cents to men’s dollar.              

  We asked women across Colorado why there is still a gender wage gap, what their experiences have been, and how the gap can be closed.

Ingrid Alongi

Co-Founder/chief people officer, Quick Left Inc. 

“There is still a perception or bias that women are providing less value. Jobs that embody traditional female qualities, such as care-taking, are generally jobs that pay less overall, and those associated with masculine qualities have higher pay overall. I think some of this translates when women cross over into traditionally male dominated fields – they take their perceived feminine qualities with them and are therefore seen as offering less value.

  “As a boss, you have the power to be fairer in your raise and review processes. Consider offering training for your team on how to better negotiate a salary. Consider the criteria you are using to judge people. Does it reinforce any biases?”

Joelle Martinez

Executive director, Latino Leadership Institute at the University of Denver

“Pay structure and inequality really start at the top. Women are only 4.4 percent of all CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. When you look at Latinas, it’s less than 1 percent. When we look at corporate board service, 19 percent of board members are women, and 0.5 percent are Latina. For Latinas in particular this is an extraordinary problem. Latinas earn 55 cents compared to the dollar that men earn, and Latinas are overwhelmingly becoming the breadwinners in their families. Policy change has to happen at the top. That’s why we are not seeing the kind of change we need to see on the corporate side.”



Rachael Donaldson

Head of Talent Acceleration & Senior Advisor on Culture, TapInfluence

“Some of the reasons the pay gap continues to exist include identified factors such as occupational choices, industry selection, experience, union status, lack of affordable housing in major cities, lack of STEM education and mentorship, societal pressure on girls, etc.

“From an education perspective, I think it’s important to consider even the language we use around ‘STEM,’ and how we model what STEM careers can look like. Not everyone has to be an engineer to be highly successful and technical. There are associate-degreed roles and alternative schools that offer a glide path to success that is easily the difference between low income and a meaningful livelihood. We can help demystify STEM at the grade school, middle and high school levels – each are key intervention points for believing STEM careers are a possibility for a girl – by actively participating in area schools and using language children can relate to and are excited about.”

Jessica Rusin

Director of engineering, Guild Education

“In industries where there are fewer women, the pay gap is even greater. I think more women working in the STEM fields can help reduce the pay gap. However, creating more awareness and transparency around the issue is important. It is important for women to be advocates for themselves, and to gather as much data about what average salaries are for their positions. Women mentors in similar fields can help other women understand what is fair compensation for a particular position. Also, promoting more women into management positions can be helpful in reducing gaps as it’s more visible at that level.”

Sarah Chase-McRorie

President elect, Colorado Women’s Bar Association

 “Other states such as New Mexico and Wisconsin have provided the tools for businesses to look at their own systems and maybe address and identify
any gaps for women and men performing the same work. We’re hopeful Colorado can create some sort of model as well.

  “The important thing is getting everyone to agree on the same data. Then we can address the issue and provide tools for businesses to look at themselves. The first thing is to recognize the importance of valuing men’s and women’s contributions, and look at employers and be confident they are not discriminating against women because they’re women.”

Lizelle van Vuuren

CEO & founder, Women Who Startup

“Thirty percent of all new businesses are started by women. We talk about fundraising and finance and capital. When women pitch their opportunity you will not believe how much they lowball. Women are underestimating their value. We have a ways to go simply to change the narrative. We have an organization that tells women’s stories, to put women in a position where they are sharing their stories with other women and men. We have amazing support from a lot of guys. They are cheerleaders.”

Charlotte N. Sweeney

Attorney, founding member of Sweeney & Bechtold LLC

“It is important to note that while it was expected that the pay gap in traditionally male dominated industries would shrink as more and more women entered the field, the surprising result has been that the pay for that job actually declines. Thus, the mere presence of women in the position leads employers to devalue the positions overall.

   “Several states, including California and New York, are currently leading the way in the fight to close the pay gap by enacting comprehensive supplemental legislation specifically designed to eradicate pay discrimination. These laws force employers to demonstrate that wage disparities are based on factors other than gender and increase the penalties for proven violations. They also prohibit retaliation against employees who discuss their wages with other employees. This is critical as wage transparency is key in ensuring that women have the information they need to enforce the right to equal pay.”

Linda Meric

National executive director, 9to5

   “Jobs done predominantly by women are valued and paid less than jobs done predominantly by men, even when they require the same level of skills, effort, responsibility and working conditions. Those who care for our children and elders are paid less than those who care for our cars. Because women are still responsible for two-thirds of family caregiving, we are penalized in our paychecks when we need time to care and don’t have access to flexible workplace policies, like paid leave and paid sick days.

   “There are many policies that will help close the pay gap, including strengthening existing equal pay and anti-discrimination laws, work-family policies such as paid leave, paid sick days, flexible and predictable scheduling, pregnancy accommodations and child care, wage transparency, protection for workers who share pay information, raising minimum wage, and recruitment and training of women into higher paid industries.”


Just the stats, ma’am

According to the National Partnership for Women & Families, in its report, “An Unlevel Playing Field: America’s Gender-Based Wage Gap, Binds of Discrimination, And A Path Forward,” Colorado ranks 30th – with a 20-cent gap – meaning women earn 80 cents for every dollar men earn. Louisiana had the biggest gap of 34 cents, and the District of Columbia had the smallest, only 9 cents. The organization used the March 2014 “Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplements (ASEC),” which is sponsored by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

   Another study, “The Economic Status of Women in Colorado,” by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research and funded by The Women’s Foundation of Colorado, found that while women have made progress toward economic equality over the years, they still lag behind men in several ways. This is not only a legislative issue – the Equal Pay Act in 1963 did not end the disparity – it is an economic issue. According to the study, if Colorado women earned the same as comparable men, the poverty rate for all working women would be cut in half and the state economy would grow by an additional $9.2 billion. Also, if all working women in Colorado ages 18 and older were paid the same as comparable men, their average earnings would increase from $40,256 to $47,581 annually. But if current trends continue, the IWPR noted, women in Colorado will not see equal pay until 2057.

For more statistics:

Women’s Jobs

The Wall Street Journal recently published a study that found the gender pay gap was widest for top jobs, such as physicians and financial planners. The findings, based on analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data for five years through 2014, contradicted the premise that pay disparities were mostly among unskilled workers and everyone earned equally large amounts of money if they received an education and snagged the prized, high-level job.

   Among the findings:

–  Male doctors working full-time earned about $210,000 annually on average, while female physicians made 64 percent of that, at $135,000 a year.

– Male personal financial advisers earned about $100,000 while women made about $62,000. Industry experts consulted by the Wall Street Journal pointed to differences in negotiating skills, the ability to easily replace one worker with another, and the more common argument that women take time off for childrearing, and lose seniority when it comes to promotions and pay raises.

    The BLS reports that even among the occupations that are considered traditionally women’s, men earn more. For example, women secondary school teachers earn 88.8 percent of what men earn. Women secretaries earn 84.5 percent of what men earn. Women nurses earn 88.3 percent of what men earn.

Source: Bureau of labor statistics