Blog Posts > It is Time to Close the Gender Pay Gap in WV

It is Time to Close the Gender Pay Gap in WV

Written by Caitlin Cook on September 7, 2018

Charleston Gazette – My father, like any good father, always told me — his baby girl — that I could do anything I wanted. He’s right, and sadly also wrong. Despite earning a journalism degree, a philosophy degree, having a strong work ethic and desire to help people and do the best I possibly can in my career, statistically I won’t earn the same amount of money as my male counterparts until 2119. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess I won’t be around to enjoy the closing of the gender pay gap, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Story link.

In 2016, West Virginia women earned just 72 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts, according to an American Association of University Women report. West Virginia women working full-time earned $12,801 less than their male counterparts — a gender pay gap of 28 percent. Unfortunately, the Mountain State ranks high on the gender pay gap list — with the highest pay gap among surrounding states and the third highest in the nation.

If we take a closer look at the full gender pay gap and factor in West Virginians who are prime working age (25-54) who work part-time or are not paid for their work, the gender pay gap is 41 percent, according to a West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy analysis.

While the gender pay gap has been reduced over the last few decades as more women earned bachelor’s degrees and found employment in managerial or professional roles, much work remains to do be done.

If West Virginia women earned the same amount as their male counterparts, they would be able to afford many necessities that are often out of financial reach. With the $12,801 in earnings that a woman lost in 2016, she could have paid for roughly an extra year and half of child care, nearly two years of food for her and her family, tuition at a public, two-year institution or tuition for one year at a public four-year, in-state school.

The gender pay gap among full-time workers varies throughout the state, from no pay gap in Doddridge County to a gap of 50 percent in Braxton County. In Kanawha County, the state’s most populous county, the pay gap is 26 percent.

Women’s pay is less than men’s at every level of educational attainment. The pay gap in West Virginia is partially driven by the low level of educational achievement among West Virginia women. In 2016, the Mountain State had the lowest share of women in the country with a bachelor’s degree or higher at 21.7 percent.

The gender pay gap among women and men with a doctorate degree is higher than any other education attainment level at 52 percent. The median earnings for men with a doctorate degree is $135,000 compared to $70,000 for women.

The long-term impact of the gender pay gap is staggering for women and their families, especially for women of color. According to the National Women’s Law Center, the national gender pay gap for white women is 79 percent, 63 percent for Black women and 54 percent for Latinas. If the progress continues at the rate seen since 2001, white women will not achieve pay equity until 2119; Black women until 2124 and Latinas will have to wait until 2233.

In 2016, West Virginia women faced one of the highest lifetime pay gaps in the country, with women losing an estimated $512,040 over the course of their career, according to the National Women’s Law Center. Black women would lose $642,440 and Latinas would lose $711,680.

The gender pay gap negatively affects women after they leave the workforce. According to the National Institute on Retirement Security, women are 80 percent more likely than men to live in poverty after retirement.

West Virginia policymakers can make it so fathers won’t always be slightly wrong when they tell their daughters they can do anything. Policies like paid sick leave, paid family medical leave, increasing the state’s minimum wage, increasing access to affordable, quality child care and reversing the state’s right-to-work policy would foster an environment of pay equity.

Let’s hope the majority-male Legislature sees the value in equal pay for equal work for the betterment of us all.

Caitlin Cook is communications director of the West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy.

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