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JENNIFER EUELL

Kristine Paulsen

While women in Montana have made considerable advances in recent years, they still face inequities that often prevent them from reaching their full potential. According to a report recently released by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research and sponsored by the Women’s Foundation of Montana, Montana received a D grade on indicators related to Employment and Earnings. IWPR’s Employment and Earnings Composite Index scores states based on four indicators: women’s annual earnings, ratio of men to women’s earnings, women’s labor force participation, and the percent of employed women in professional occupations.

Women in Montana have made significant educational gains in the last 25 years, as 33 percent of women age 25 and older now hold bachelor’s degrees or higher. This is an increase of about 10 percentage points over year 2000 data. A growing share of Montana women are now employed in managerial or professional occupations, as this group now makes up 41.5 percent of all working women in the state. Nevertheless, women face a persistent and recently widening gender wage gap, earning about 70 cents to every dollar a man earns. At the current rate, this wage gap is not expected to close until 2084. The poverty rate among women has risen slightly from 14.4 percent in 2004 to 15 percent in 2016. These trends are even more pronounced for women of color.

Women in our state also own a much smaller share of businesses than men. However, there has been growth in recent years, as 31.5 percent of businesses were owned by women in 2015, up from 24.6 percent in 2007.

Montana earned its highest ranking in the area of political participation, coming in 10th in the nation. Montana has a relatively high number of women serving in elected office, with women making up 28 percent of the state Legislature.

The Women’s Foundation of Montana provides statewide research, advocacy, and initiatives in support of economic independence for Montana women. Since its creation, the organization has granted more than $750,000 to provide new opportunities for hundreds of Montana women and girls in financial education, leadership, entrepreneurship, wage-negotiation training, and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) programming each year.

WFM is the founder of PowerHouse Montana, powerhousemt.org, an online platform that connects women to mentors and resources. WFM also works with strategic partners from across the state to increase women’s access to economic opportunity, narrow the wage gap, and improve the well-being of women, families, and communities in Montana.

Visit statusofwomendata.org for more information about the Status of Women in the States project.

Jennifer Euell is program director at the Women’s Foundation of Montana (a program of the Montana Community Foundation). She resides in Florence.

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