Women still on the lower salary rungs in state government

2013-05-28T00:00:00Z 2013-05-28T00:00:56Z Women still on the lower salary rungs in state governmentBy LAURA HANCOCK Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette
May 28, 2013 12:00 am  • 

CASPER, Wyo. — Women working in Wyoming’s state government hold relatively few high-paid jobs — including management positions — compared with men, a state-issued report found.

Only one out of five state employees making $150,000 to $200,000 a year was a woman, the state’s 2012 workforce report found. Yet the reverse was true for lower-paid jobs. Nearly three out of four employees earning between $20,000 and $30,000 were women. Of 1,800 state supervisory jobs, only one in three was held by a woman.

State officials say the disparity is due to a lack of women applicants in some top-paying jobs, including engineering careers. Renny MacKay, a spokesman for Gov. Matt Mead, said in an email that the report found that by job classification, pay between men and women is nearly equal.

Yet women in state government are still doing the bulk of the clerical jobs and men are more likely to be in management, said Richelle Keinath, executive director of the Laramie-based Wyoming Women’s Foundation. The Wyoming Women’s Foundation gives grants to organizations that help women and girls attain economic self-sufficiency.

Keinath doesn’t believe men purposely discriminate when considering women for high-salary positions. But they tend to hire people they know, or people whose references they know.

“I do not think it’s a malicious thing,” she said. “Like creates like. It has to be a conscious choice to change that.”

No managers

Of the 1,800 supervisory or management positions in the state government, slightly more than one out of three supervisors are held by women, said Dean Fausset, director of the Wyoming Department of Administration and Information, which prepared the report.

But supervisory positions don’t always pay top salaries.

“We would have positions, such as office-support staff supervisors (that) wouldn’t be at the top of the pay scale, he said.

There are some professions that are dominated by men, possibly because there are not a lot of women to choose from, such as engineering, Fausset said.

In state government, there are no women highway patrol captains, skilled trades managers, highway maintenance supervisors, forestry program analysts, heavy mechanics supervisors or highway maintenance supervisors, he said.

On the other hand, there are no men with jobs as nurse managers, health program supervisors, benefits and eligibility program analysts and senior office support specialists — possibly for the same reason: few qualified men apply.

“For example, a nurse’s occupational field is primarily occupied by females,” Fausset said. “There are men who are nurses as well, but it’s primarily a female occupation.”

Salary gap widens

While men may still hold most of the top-paid state government jobs, the overall pay gap shrank slightly last year. As a percent of men’s salaries, women’s pay was 88.2 percent in 2012, up from 87.9 percent in 2011 and 83.9 percent in 2008, the report said.

But in the West, including in Wyoming, the difference between women’s and men’s salaries is among the greatest in the country. Several studies have ranked Wyoming first in income disparity between the genders, when including pay data for all jobs. In February, the governor-appointed Wyoming Council for Women’s Issues determined that the Equality State had the largest gender wage gap in the country, based on information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A representative of the council declined to comment on the workforce report because the council is funded by the Wyoming Legislature.

Equality in pay should be a priority for men and women, said Bob Kuchera of the Wyoming Public Employees Association.

“I have a daughter,” he said. “I have a wife. Do I want them to be paid fairly for their work? Absolutely. I think it’s the right thing.”

In government service, equal salaries will attract more women, which is necessarily for problem-solving. Women can offer different perspectives, Kuchera said.

“If you hang out with people who see the world exactly like you, you might only have one answer to things,” he said.

Making changes

Fausset said that publishing information of the gender gap may encourage state agency administrators to think closely about women’s salaries. That may be one of the reasons overall salaries for women as a percent of men are climbing.

“I think things like this workforce report that constantly get in front of agencies and managers about the disparity” helps narrow the gap, he said.

MacKay, the governor’s spokesman, said that the wage gap is a complex issue.

“This report is helpful for state government to consider and see where there may be room for improvement,” he said. “Gov. Mead’s approach to hiring is to find the best person while making sure to consider people from a variety of backgrounds.”

In the governor’s office last year, women’s salaries as a percent of men’s salaries were below the state average, at 83.9 percent. But MacKay said that the highest paid person in Mead’s office is a woman, Kari Gray, the chief of staff, who makes $126,000 a year.

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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