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Equal Pay? Not for Washington Women

March 5, 2009

Seattle, WA – International Women’s Day this Sunday will once again draw attention to the income disparity between men and women. Here in Washington, where women make up almost half of the workforce, most could be faring better when it comes to equal pay and benefits compared to men, according to women's advocates. In the last 20 years, women’s paychecks in the Evergreen State have shrunk from 68 percent of what men earn to 64 percent.

Part of the reason, according to Marilyn Watkins, policy director for the Economic Opportunity Institute, is that some of the highest-paid professions attract mostly men, while the lowest-paid are filled mostly by women.

"One of the places where we’ve seen an increase in segregation is in technology. That’s become increasingly male-dominated over the last 20 years, and that’s an area that’s particularly high-paying – leaving women behind."

Construction sites and dentists’ offices are other examples of workplaces where women usually fill the lower-paid support positions, according to Watkins. She adds, the 1960s and 70s brought new anti-discrimination laws to the workplace, but today, different kinds of protection are needed. She says things like paid sick leave and family leave would allow all workers better balance between work and home.

"It’s going to take, not just changes in attitude, but actual changes in legislation, to make those kinds of changes that are going to allow women to make the next strides towards equality."

Women earn an average of almost $1,700 per month less than men in Washington, which Watkins says is due to the fact that twice as many women work part-time, with no benefits, as they juggle responsibilities for children and aging parents. Statistics show a woman’s average hourly wage in Washington is now $15.49, or about $3.50 less than a man’s, while more women work part-time, with no benefits. Together, those factors account for the overall income differences, according to Watkins.

Details are available online at www.eoionline.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA