The Wage Gap

At ESRI’s 2017 User Conference, the Washington Women in GIS and Technology (WWGT) submitted a poster highlighting the wage gap between women and men.

One day before Women’s Equality Day, Women in GIS would like to focus on that poster to:

  1. commemorate women’s accomplishments and,
  2. highlight the work still needed to be done.

We hope to show you we don’t have far to go, but we do need to get there.

WiGIS: Your poster, recently displayed at the 2017 ESRI UC, is titled Washington State Gender Wage Gap in the Work Force. On it, you focus on the state of Washington’s gender wage gap (GWG) and the percentage of women in the work force. But you also included some historic, national data I found fascinating. The graph for the wage gap over time clearly shows we’ve come a long way since 1960. We are definitely closing the gap! We’ve gone from earning 60% of what men earn to 80%. We’re getting there! So, why focus on this issue? Why make this such a big deal?

WWGT: While it is true the gender wage gap (GWG) is narrowing, we have not yet reached pay equity.  In fact, the America Association of University Women (AAUW) estimate that pay equity will not occur until the year 2152.

Women earn less than men in 439 of the 446 major U.S. occupations.

We must do better.  It took over 70 years for women to gain social, political and economic equality with the passing of the 19th amendment and yet we still have work to do.

The GWG affects the women’s age to retire, opportunities for career advancement, opportunities in STEM careers, and ability to pay for school, child care or living expenses.  Educating people about the factors that influence the GWG and inspiring them to get involved are the first steps to making a difference and therefore we created this poster.

WiGIS: On your poster, you suggest several ways to get involved and specifically call out the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Fair Pay Act. As I understand it, the Fair Pay Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2009, but the Paycheck Fairness Act is still under consideration by congress. Is that the case? How are these two different and what specifically can we do to help?

WWGT:  The Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA) was first introduced in 1997 and has been reintroduced many times.  It was approved by the House of Representatives in January 2009, but failed in the Senate.  It was most recently introduced to the Senate in April 2017. The PFA strengthens portions of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) and the Equal Pay Act of 1963 to make it easier for workers to share wage information, allow workers to sue for punitive damages in cases of wage discrimination, and start training programs around wage negotiation for women.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 was signed into law by President Obama, but there is a new Fair Pay Act of 2017 (FPA) which was introduced to the House in April 2017.  The Lilly Ledbetter version changes the statute of limitations for filing a pay discrimination lawsuit to the time of the initial discriminatory wage decision instead of resetting at the most recent paycheck. The 2017FPA amends the FLSA of 1938 to prohibit discrimination in payment of wages because of sex, race, or national origin, and for other purposes.  Most notably, the FPA would require comparable pay for comparable work.  For example, female-dominated professions such as emergency services operators should be paid comparable wages to their male-dominated counterparts, in this case fire dispatchers.

If you agree with these bills, call or write your senators and representatives and encourage them to pass these important acts.

  1. Find your Representative
  2. Contact your Senator

WiGIS: I love the history graphic on the bottom of your poster. It doesn’t have much to do with the GWG, however, so what inspired its inclusion on this poster?

WWGT: The timeline details significant milestones related to Women in STEM careers compared to related U.S. historic events.  Our group felt it was important to include this information as it highlights how long Women have been leaders in STEM career fields and yet are still striving for pay equity.  The timeline shows how long it took women to get the right to vote, civil rights, the opportunity to work in any career and obtain equal pay (we are getting closer).  These women demonstrate the strength and courage required to do what they loved.  Highlighting their accomplishments inspire future generations to reach for their dreams.  It is our job as women in STEM careers to not only educate girls and women on STEM careers and opportunities but also provide support and mentoring. This is the purpose of our Washington Women in GIS and Technology (WWGT) group.

WWGT at ESRI UC 2017. From left to right: Robyn Pepin (Aspect Consulting), Tonya Kauhi (GeoEngineers), Jack Dangermond (Esri), Jaclyn Layton (Metro Parks Tacoma), Jennifer Radcliff (Port of Tacoma) and Melissa Hayashida (Metro Parks Tacoma)

Many thanks to Tonya Kauhi for answering our questions and spearheading this poster.

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