Wage-gender gap has no basis


On Oct. 5, the Department of Workforce

Services delivered its gender wage

gap study to the Joint Labor, Health and

Social Services Committee. This study

was authorized by 2017 House Bill 209,

co-sponsored by Rep. Cathy Connelly

and me. Its $75,000 cost required no additional

money. The cost was borne by

DWS using existing department funds.

The work was meant to update the

2003 University of Wyoming and The

Wyoming Women’s Foundation study

examining Wyoming’s gender wage

disparity and to get to the bottom of the

Wyoming Worst for Women headline in

a 2017 issue of Forbes Magazine.

The Department’s charge was to inform

legislators as to the reasons for the

wage gap between men and women in

Wyoming.

Rep. Connelly had concerns that discrimination

was the root cause. I suspected

that fewer women than men in

Wyoming’s workforce, and their lower

earnings, were primarily a result of the

choices women made. If, indeed, it was

discovered that Wyoming employers

were paying women less, solely because

they were women, then legislators had

some hard work ahead of them.

The reported 68¢ gender wage gap is

derived, quite simply, by adding up all

the wages earned by men, then adding

up all the wages earned by women and

calculating the difference. As the DWS

report notes, this is done by the U.S. Census

Bureau American Community Survey,

which uses five-year averages from

relatively small sample sizes. No attempt

is made in the survey to compare job to

job, or hours to hours among male and

female workers.

From the 2018 study, “Time spent at

work, education differences, employment

in different industries and family factors

were the main reasons for the wage gap.

Many of the results from the 2003 studies

were replicated in this report.”

The study further reports that “… industry

of employment and the number of

hours worked as the two greatest contributors

to Wyoming’s gender wage gap.”

The study made two references to discrimination:

“Coefficients were estimates

of the unexplained residual portions or

what could be attributed to discrimina-

PERSPECTIVES

Letter to the editor

made up just 10.2 percent of persons

working in production and manufacturing

occupations – the smallest proportion

in the region.”

• On the subject of employment benefits,

“Overall, a slightly larger proportion

of women, 84.9 percent, were covered by

some type of insurance plan compared to

men, 83.4 percent.”

• “In the past, relative wages for an

occupation have fallen as more women

entered the occupation.” The study enumerated

several possible solutions to the

fact that men earn more than women in

Wyoming, and those can be found on

page seven of the report.

One of the measures other states have

taken is to increase penalties for violation

of equal pay laws. In the 2018 Wyoming

legislative session, Representative Connelly

and I cosponsored House Bill 146 to

do just that. It sailed through the House,

but was not considered in the senate.

We will bring this bill again in 2019.

Penalties for paying women less than

men, everything else being equal, should

be at least as substantial as the penalty for

a bounced paycheck.

There are possible legislative solutions,

but we should avoid state mandates

on employers and employees in a

free market. There are ideas for training

employers and training female job applicants

to negotiate higher wages. There

are suggestions for voluntary employer

actions.

Wyoming can encourage girls to pursue

math and science in elementary

schools and continue that education in

college. We can encourage girls and

women to pursue “non-traditional” careers,

and thus change the occupational

matrix.

An increase in the minimum wage

would likely help increase women’s earnings

relative to men’s, but would need

to be carefully measured to balance the

gains in income with the potential loss of

employment or hours worked.

What law do we pass to get more

women in the workforce? What law do

we pass to get women to work longer

hours? Some will say the state needs to

subsidize daycare, but I do not see lawmaker

support for that.

This study was comprehensive, exhaustive

and confirmed what many of

us knew. Wyoming is a great state. It’s

a great state for women. Employers pay

men and women fairly considering the

nature of the job, education attainment

and hours worked.

Due to the high wages paid in the mineral

sector, Wyoming is a great state to

enable women to choose to work at home

raising their families.

Wyoming is not “worst for women.”

Generally speaking, Wyoming women

in the workforce are doing the jobs and

working the hours they want. The Legislature

has nothing to do here.

Rep. Marti Halverson

House District 22

Lincoln/Sublette/Teton

Editor’s note: This letter was received

2 weeks before the general election,

but was held until election results were

posted in the contested race.

tion, variables not included in the regression

model, or a combination of both.”

And, “The remaining $0.13 of the adjusted

gender wage gap were unaccounted

for due to factors that were unknown,

which could include discrimination.”

No evidence of gender wage discrimination

was found. There was only

speculation that discrimination “could”

possibly be an explanation for a small

part of the wage gap between men and

women.

Exerpts from the study included:

• “The wage gap narrows or widens

when considering … industry of employment,

hours worked, education, tenure,

having children or growing older.”

• “Counties in which mining made up

a substantial proportion of all jobs had

some of the largest wage gaps.”

• “The idea to increase the average

wages of Wyoming teachers and nurses

to at least the national minimum has already

been achieved.”

• “The number of hours worked influences

the size of the gender wage gap.

Eighty-six percent of men worked 35

or more hours per week, compared to

69 percent of women and 61 percent of

men worked full-time, year-round compared

to 44 percent of women.” The study

adds, “Men worked 44 hours per week in

2016, compared to 36 hours per week for

women and men on average worked 143

hours more than women over the year

which explained the hours worked portion

of the wage gap.”

• “After starting a family, more women

cut hours or take time away from work

than men.”

• “The wage gap widened with the

number of births a person had. Fortyseven

percent of mothers with children

under age 18 would prefer to work parttime

over full-time or not at all.”

• “In recent years, the percentage of

women participating in the workforce has

decreased.”

• “Two-thirds of tipped workers are

women. Women have greater representation

among minimum-wage workers.

More women than men working in relatively

lower-paying jobs.”

• “Wyoming women working in computer

and mathematical occupations were

paid practically the same as men working

in the same occupations.”

• “Employment in mining was most

dominated by men, 87.4 percent to 12.6

percent women, while healthcare and social

assistance was dominated by women,

82.6 percent to 17.4 percent men. Women

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