Seattle has a new distinction - having the biggest wage gap between men and women of any major metropolitan area nationwide. This comes on April 9, National Equal Pay Day.
"Today we commemorate yet another Equal Pay Day - a date determined based on just how far the average woman has to work into the new year to earn what their male colleagues earned doing the same work in the previous year," U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) said in a statement. "Presently it takes the average woman 464 days to earn what a man makes in just 365 days."
A number of recent studies have highlighted the difference in pay received by men and women. The study, released by the National Partnership for Women & Families, reports that on average, women in Seattle make 73 cents for every dollar their male counterparts bring home. That means the average woman makes $16,346 annually.
Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Detroit have the next largest gaps after Seattle. Los Angeles has the smallest gender wage gap, with the average woman making just eight cents less than the average man.
The passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963 has helped close the gap, but only at a rate of less than half a cent per year. Nationally, women earn 77 cents for every dollar men are paid.
Pay gap linked to career choices
Local economists with PayScale.com say when you dig into the numbers they show that when men and women do the same job, the gap shortens to 3%. The problem is more men are working in the high-paying engineering and tech jobs that are in demand in our region.
It’s an issue that schools like Seattle University are trying to address.
“There’s been a large number of resources thrown at this issue, but some engineering and technology fields have been more difficult to recruit women to,” Associate Dean Jean Jacoby explained.
Jacoby says the College of Science and Engineering has hired more female faculty members and is offering grants to women who want to do post-graduate research. The school frequently hears from employers who want to find more qualified female applicants.
“There’s a perception that electrical engineering and mechanical engineering may be less interesting to women but nothing could be further from the truth,” Jacoby explained.
Jacoby was not surprised to hear about the pay gap.
“Engineers and scientist tend to earn higher wages, so if we have a low percentage of women in those fields, then they’re going to have lower salaries,” she said.
Students like Senior Alyssa Ardourel say they hope more girls will pursue these careers.
“It’s such a great field, I really love it,” she said. “I would hope more girls realize there’s an opportunity in this for them.”
The push has drifted into the corporate world where there are also efforts to get women into the tech industry. Julie Sandler helped organize a “hack-a-thon” weekend for women that helped them get ideas for launching tech companies.
“If you don’t get exposure at an early age, it’s hard to know if it’s something that would interest you,” Sandler explained. Sandler says the event attracted women from several career fields and she believes, given the chance, they can succeed.
“A significant number of women loved working in tech product; they loved it,” Sandler said.