Utah has always hovered near last place when it comes to pay equity between men and women. Now, a new analysis of U.S. census data shows we're right at the bottom, with employers paying 55 cents to a woman compared with the dollar a man makes.
It's a shame and an outrage. By so many measures, Utah's women are as smart and hardworking as its men. More work outside the home than the national average, and a young woman can spend 30 years in the labor force, according to the Department of Workforce Services. Most women who work are married. On a darker note, a third of female-headed households are in poverty.
Meantime, a 2008 survey showed a Utah man with a full-time job earns a median of $45,000. The comparable figure for women is $31,200.
The big question: Why?
Well, it can be straight-up sexism in the workplace. Or we can blame our culture, the one that says women tend to stay home and miss out on some earnings to take care of the kids while the husband's working. There's also research that women who don't plan to work outside the home see no good reason to go to college.
That thinking, for many women, abruptly ends with divorce, a man's death or unemployment, or any number of adverse situations that leave a woman and her children bereft.
There is every reason to believe that whatever a woman's circumstance is, higher education will help her gain knowledge, confidence, a good job at decent wages and lifelong learning skills that would help her in school and on the job.
Still, there's that earnings imbalance.
So knowledge is key, says Tracy Harris-Belnap, state program specialist at Workplace Services. And that knowledge comes from doing the homework.
That means researching a job before you apply. What's the cost and quality of health insurance and what's the salary range?
Harris-Belnap recommends doing informational interviews with a person who has the same kind of job you want. In addition, write a first-rate résumé that prospective employers will actually read, especially in a time when hundreds of applicants may be gunning for the same job.
Workforce Services offers free classes on how to write such résumés along with additional resources on employment and life skills as well as courses for people looking for full-time jobs. And anyone can search the Web for articles about companies or organizations to learn how they operate, job descriptions and details and some pay information.
Perhaps most important, women must become good negotiators. With enough practice, even shy women can be assertive.
I once took a job that paid several thousand dollars less than the one I left. I'm still kicking myself for that proof positive that it will never do us (or our daughters and sons) any good to sell ourselves short.
Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/pegmcentee and Twitter: @pegmcentee.