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Report: At Current Rate, Women Won't Close Pay Gap Until 2059

Full-time working women in Washington make about 79 percent as much as their male counterparts. (AFGE/flickr)
Full-time working women in Washington make about 79 percent as much as their male counterparts. (AFGE/flickr)
September 22, 2016

SEATTLE – If the gender pay gap continues to close at its current rate, women will reach pay equity with men in 2059, according to a new report from the American Association of University Women. Called The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap, the report finds full-time working women are slowly closing the disparity, making about 80 percent nationally of what their male counterparts make.

Marilyn Watkins, policy director at the Economic Opportunity Institute, said the issue isn't just that women are paid less for the same job title. Often, as in the technology field, they are shuffled into lower-paying positions.

"Men might get the job as coders, which are the most highly paid jobs, and women get slotted into the testing part, where they still have to have a lot of computer and technology skills but they just get paid less and they don't have the opportunity to really rise up in the organization either," she said.

In Washington, full-time working women make 79 percent of what men working full-time make, according to the report.

Watkins said Washington state could strengthen its equal-pay laws by looking to other states. This summer, she said, Massachusetts passed one of the strongest equal-pay laws in the country, which makes sure companies pay equally for comparable jobs and job requirements.

"For example, cafeteria workers and custodians might be deemed comparable jobs even though one is traditionally female and gets paid a lot less than the traditionally male custodial jobs," she added.

Equal-pay legislation, such as bills that provide for wage transparency, have failed in Washington's Legislature over the past few years. But Watkins said the paid sick-leave initiative on this year's ballot could boost Washington women in the workplace.

The report also found that African-American women make about two-thirds and Hispanic or Latina women make about half of what white men make nationwide. Watkins said it's important to think about how policies that close the gender pay gap affect women of color as well.

"We really do need to include a racial equity lens as well as a gender equity lens when we're looking at policies," explained Watkins. "All of these policies will really help end some of the racial inequities as well as some of the gender inequities."

The full report can be read here.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA