By Harriet Jones
Women’s position in the workplace in Connecticut has improved significantly over the last 15 years, according to a new report. But the study, commissioned by the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, says too many disparities still remain, particularly for women of color.
Connecticut ranks fifth nationally in women’s median earnings, and the pay gap between men and women has narrowed in the state. Overall women’s earnings have improved almost ten percent in comparison to men’s since 1998. But the gender gap is wider in Connecticut than it is in the nation as a whole, and study author Cynthia Hess says a closer look at the data is telling.
“Hispanic women fare the worst,” she told a news conference, “they earn less than half the amount that white men earn. Black women earn just $.60 on the dollar compared with white men. For white and Asian American women the gaps are less, but they’re still substantial.” According to the data in the study, white women earn 77 percent of what white men earn, while Asian women earn 75 percent.
Some commentators blame the wage gap on the fact that women tend to end up in lower paying jobs overall than men. But Carolyn Treiss, Director of the Commission, says the study shows in fact that wage discrimination is a reality at all levels.
“The wage gap exists, not only because…. women tend to segregate in lower wage occupations,” she said. “In fact what the data shows is that the gap exists within those higher paying occupations. Women physicians and surgeons get paid less than men physicians and surgeons.”
The report also drilled down on different socio-economic areas in the state. Women in wealthy areas of Connecticut had the highest median wages, but they also suffered the largest wage gap, making just 50 percent of what their male counterparts earn. In contrast, in urban centers, men’s and women’s earnings were almost equal.
The Commission is calling on the legislature to consider an expansion of paid family leave as one way to tackle disparities. It also wants to see better access to education for low-income women, and career advice that includes a discussion of the earnings potential of different fields. The Commission also says employers should be encouraged to monitor their own hiring and promotion practices for evidence of wage discrimination.