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Closing Utah’s gender pay gap will require working in the public and private sectors

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This story is part of The Salt Lake Tribune’s ongoing commitment to identifying solutions to Utah’s greatest challenges through the work of the Innovation Lab.

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For decades, Utah has had one of the largest gender pay gaps in the country – and it hasn’t changed in the last few years. The disparity also hasn’t inspired state legislators to act much, a review by The Salt Lake Tribune found.

“It is difficult to pass these kinds of laws in our Legislature,” said Democratic Senator Jani Iwamoto. Still, she feels it’s important to address the gender pay gap in Utah.

“I went through this myself, recounting a time when she was a practicing attorney in San Francisco,” says Iwamoto.

Overall, women in the Beehive State still earn about 30% less than their male counterparts, according to a recent report from the Utah Women and Leadership Project at Wyoming State University.

Rebecca Winkle, lead researcher on the report, said: “It’s disappointing to hear that it hasn’t gotten much better.

According to Winkle, who works in the oil and gas industry, to solve the disparity problem, Utahns need to move away from thinking it’s a “women’s problem.”

“Help people in the business community understand the impacts of business. Help friends, family and advocacy groups see the consequences of wage disparity,” says Winkle. “Determine the economic burden it places on the state, as this is disproportionately damaging lower-income women and single, working mothers and heads of households. is female”.

Women in Utah want their government and business leaders to take action to close the gender pay gap. a statewide poll by The Salt Lake Tribune in 2019. And there are concrete steps that leaders in the public and private sectors can take to close Utah’s gender pay gap.

Review the laws

Before becoming a legislator, Iwamoto was working in San Francisco as an attorney in the 1980s, when she discovered a new male attorney to the firm was making more money than she was.

“I discovered this. And I told my boss that I work day and night. He [the new male lawyer] home at 5. I passed the bar [exam]. He didn’t pass the bar,” Iwamoto recalls.

Her boss said the new lawyer makes more money because he is supporting a family. At that time, Iwamoto was still single and was willing to leave his job at a large law firm because of the difference in salary.

“I explained to him that if it was your daughter doing the same job or more, would you agree with this?” Iwamoto said. Iwamoto’s boss has acknowledged and apologized for the disparity. She got a raise of about $40,000.

(Jani Iwamoto) Wyoming Senator Jani Iwamoto on a flyer when she was a practicing attorney in San Fransico, California in the 1980s.

Iwamoto carried that experience into the chambers of the Utah Senate. The legislator succeeded in passing a piece of legislation related to gender pay disparity, where most bills on the subject tend to die on arrival.

The Salt Lake Tribune reviewed bills from 2015 to the 2021 legislative session and discovered seven bills specifically related to gender pay gaps. Among them, one of them was passed and signed into law. That bill, SB185, funded by Iwamoto, has helped Utahns pursue compensation discrimination cases in state court, rather than going through federal court, which tends to be more expensive.

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Three of the bills have failed in proposed studies of gender pay gaps in the state. Another would prevent employers from retaliating against employees who discussed their pay. And two other bills that would have Utah join other states in barring employers from asking applicants how much they were paid at previous jobs.

Salary history bans are one of the steps Experts suggest closing gender pay gap because it can help prevent women from being constantly underpaid. When Utah lawmakers discussed the issue during the 2019 session, they agreed that women should be paid equal wages, but some questioned whether the government had a role to interfere in business. Are not.

Republican Representative Kera Birkeland, who was not serving in 2019 as these conversations took place, sees more work can be done to address Utah’s above-average pay gap. Utah “could do a lot better” when it comes to inequality, she said. However, Birkeland is not entirely convinced the public should pour money for the cause.

“I didn’t know we wanted to allocate taxpayer funding to better understand this,” says Birkeland. “I feel there are good ways of communicating with the private market to understand what they are seeing and what we can do to help with that.”

Instead, some lawmakers on Utah’s Capitol Hill argued in 2019 that women can negotiate for themselves or refuse to answer questions about their pay history. But Mickell Jimenez, an employment and employment law attorney at Holland & Hart, told The Tribune, “That’s not realistic.”

“You don’t ask an employee to come in, when they’re trying to… make a good impression because they want a job, to choose for themselves whether or not they’ll talk to… their potential employer. , “No, I don’t want to answer that question,” she said.

A bird’s-eye view of business

Jonyce Bullock, CEO of Squire, an accounting firm based in Utah, better understand the copious amount of men in the accounting industry.

“Only about 20% of partner positions, leadership positions in CPA [certified public accountant] “Probably less than 5% in Utah,” says Bullock.

Bullock was the first female partner Squire ever had. Currently, three of the 24 partner positions are held by women. Squire has 185 employees and about 50% are female, according to Bullock.

Over the past decade, Squire has investigated and worked to close the gender pay gap in the company.

“We’re accountants, so we want to measure everything. We want to turn everything into a mathematical formula, says Bullock. “And from that perspective, we really shouldn’t have a gender pay gap. … Everyone has equal access to inputs and outputs. ”

To help create equal access, Bullock’s firm implemented a “multiple” of each accountant should be based on their title at Squire.

A “multiple” is a mathematical formula that indicates how much wages should fit into a range based on the employee’s location and the total number of hours worked per year. Squire HR also tracks multiples of every employee to see if there is any bias.

“If you are a new professional, then [the multiple] should be like that. Bullock explains that the multiple should be this if you’re a senior accountant. “So if all the professionals are in more than one specific range, in theory I shouldn’t have a pay gap.”

That makes sense from a mathematical point of view, says Bullock. But it doesn’t take into account the various payout ratios that accountants set.

“I know that a woman and a man have the same multiples, so there’s no gap there,” says Bullock. “But that could mean she has a lower payout and a lower pay, and he has a higher payout and a higher pay, and the result is the same multiple.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Jonyce Bullock, CEO of the CEO of Squire, an accounting firm based in Utah, pictured October 2020, worked to resolve the disparity gender pay gap among its employees.

Bullock began to notice that the mathematical equation did not address the gender pay gap.

“We really stopped and looked around and asked where we might be missing things,” says Bullock.

Since Squire started looking at the different payment rates each accountant charges, Bullock found female accountants tend to charge less on average.

Bullock gives an example of a time when a male employee approached management and asked to increase his pay to $25 an hour. They gave him a raise. However, when Squire approached every employee about the raise, the two women refused the raise because they didn’t want to increase the pay rate.

And it was not an isolated incident. Bullock notes that women seem more reluctant to increase their rates than their male counterparts.

“These women are just like, ‘I get paid enough. I’m comfortable with the rates going on and I don’t want to upset myself and have to explain to my clients what I’m going to charge extra for so I can get paid more,” said Bullock.

But Squire wants to break that mindset, Bullock said, and is taking steps to do so.

Bullock is working with supervisors across the company to encourage female accountants to feel comfortable charging extra hourly because their work is worth it.

“I am asking them [the supervisors] meet them [employees]and see what we can do to help support them to feel comfortable with their payout rates because they have an input into their payments,” said Bullock.

Move the needle forward

Mickell Jimenez, a labor and employment attorney in Utah, said she doesn’t think most employers intentionally think, “How can we pay men more than women? How can we pay more outspoken people than gay people? ”

“I think the problem is that all this implicit bias and its…unintentional consequences comes from trying to put something in a position that you would think would be neutral in the app, but in reality it is. … not so,” she said.

To try to change that, companies can focus on education and awareness in the workplace, such as through diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, with “a top-down support from executives,” said Jimenez, who has “the power and influence” to transform their own businesses and communicate with legislators and their communities.

“It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight,” she said, “but I think we have to be willing to invest in the long-term game to have permanent changes that way.”

Even smaller businesses can solve this problem by bringing in consultants to help them, says Jimenez. And it makes sense to look at wage disparities and create an inclusive workplace when companies are struggling to hire and retain employees right now.

“It’s hard to keep employees if you’re not willing to be in that band,” she said.

Researcher Rebecca Winkle believes greater strides can be made to close the gender pay gap in Utah and increase women’s participation in the workforce, especially in male-dominated occupations. ruling world.

“Occupational segregation impacts gender pay disparities,” says Winkle. only 4% of women applied for a job in the oil and gas industry. As of 2015, women accounted for 19% of the total combined oil, gas and petrochemicals industries, according to American Petroleum Institute.

Winkle pointed to things like flexible working model, increase pay transparency, re-examine what “productivity” means, and use gender-neutral language on job listings as a way to start closing the gender pay gap.

“One of the great things about Utah is that it’s known for its innovative entrepreneurship, and that’s what would serve us really well for an issue like gender pay disparity,” Winkle said.

Becky Jacobs is a Report to the US corps member and wrote about the state of women in Utah for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant will help her continue writing stories like this; Please consider creating a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.

https://www.sltrib.com/news/2021/12/14/gender-wage-gap-bills/ Closing Utah’s gender pay gap will require working in the public and private sectors

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