U.S  Rep. Rosa DeLauro cheers as President Obama calls for equal pay for women.
U.S Rep. Rosa DeLauro cheers as President Obama calls for equal pay for women.

Washington – Despite the state’s progressive bent, women in Connecticut earn about 78 percent of what men make, close to the national wage disparity.

Numbers from the 2012 Census show that Connecticut’s gender wage gap is wider than in many other states in the Northeast; and that, within the state, the gender difference varies as well. The most pronounced gap, perhaps not surprisingly, is in Fairfield County, with its large, often male-dominated financial-services industry.

That gender wage gap in the United States has stubbornly refused to close over decades, studies show. After shrinking in the 1980s, it widened again in the 1990s and has held fairly steady since then.

Few lines in President Obama’s State of the Union speech Tuesday evening provoked as much applause than his promise to make closing the wage gap a priority this year.

“It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a ‘Mad Men’ episode,” the president said, prompting Connecticut’s  3rd District Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a champion of wage equality, to give colleagues a “high-five” that was captured on national television.

According to a study by the American Association of University Women that used information from the U.S. Census Bureau, American women, as a whole, earn 77 cents for every dollar a man is paid. In Connecticut, women earn just a penny more, 78 cents, the study showed.

According to 2012 Census figures, the median annual salary — for all occupations — for a man in Connecticut was $47,887, while a woman earned $37,483.

Obama spoke again about the wage gap Thursday in a speech at a factory in Waukesha, Wis.

“Today, women make up half our workforce. They’re making 77 cents for every dollar a man earns,” the president said. “That’s wrong … it’s an embarrassment.”

Thomas Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said Obama’s recent interest in the wage gap is a political campaign with two purposes: “to woo women voters and to build public support for federal and state legislative action when conditions are more favorable to such action.”

That’s likely why DeLauro, who has sponsored such anti-discriminatory legislation, was so jubilant at the State of the Union address.

View salaries
For every $1 a male makes, a female makes…
Among full-time, year-round workers older than 16.
Source: 2012 American Communities Survey, one-year estimates
Alvin Chang / CT Mirror

Discrimination in Connecticut

According to the AAUW study, the wage gap is smallest in Washington, D.C., where women are paid 90 percent of a man’s income; and Maryland, Nevada and Vermont, where women earn 85 percent.

Economists say discrimination and the fact that women are more likely to take extensive leaves from their jobs to care for family members – thereby often losing seniority and the raises they bring — are likely reasons for the wage gap.

But economists and others interviewed for this story are stumped when it comes to Connecticut’s wage gap, which is larger than in neighboring New York, Maine, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

“I doubt there is greater discrimination in Connecticut, that wouldn’t be my first guess,” said Steven Lanza, editor of the Connecticut Economy at the University of Connecticut.

Lanza said training and the fact that women in Connecticut are more likely to go in and out of the workforce may be responsible for the gap.

Discrimination may not be among the leading reasons for Connecticut’s wage gap, but it should not be discounted, said Catherine Hill, director of research for the American Association of University Women.

She said her organization looked at all factors that influence wages, including field of study, age and levels of education, and there was still a gap that could not be explained by anything other than discrimination.

Hill cited a Yale University experiment in which professors from various research universities across the nation were asked to hire a lab manager from a series of applications they were given to review.

The applications were essentially the same when it came to education, experience and other factors, except for gender.

“What Yale found is both male and female professors were more likely to make an offer to a male candidate. And when they did chose a female, they offered her lower pay,” Hill said. “We do believe discrimination plays a role in the workforce – even in Connecticut.”

A study conducted by the AAUW found there was a 7 percent gap in pay between men and women one year out of college “that could not be explained away,” Hill said.

In and out of the workforce

There are other reasons for Connecticut’s wage gap.

Women sometimes are paid less because they take time off work to take care of their families, stalling raises and career advancement. Census reports indicate there are many part-time and temporary female workers in Connecticut – perhaps because there are more women in Connecticut married to high-income earners. Full-time women workers make up about 43 percent of the state’s 1.2 million-person workforce.

“If your next salary is predicated on your last salary and that was 10 years ago, your salary is going to be lower,” said Teresa Younger, executive director of Connecticut’s Permanent Commission on the Status of Women.

In addition, Connecticut has fewer minority workers than many other states, and the wage gap between Hispanic and black men and women is smaller than between white men and women.

Industries that dominate the state’s economy may also come into play. The finance, defense, information technology, medical and scientific research industries that hire many people in Connecticut have large gender gaps.

But no wage gulf looms as large as the one in the legal field, which in Connecticut pays a man more than double a woman.

Hill said wage gaps are largely due to the “culture” of an industry and “what’s been the tradition in that field.”

Younger said many women in Connecticut are highly educated and enter those high-gap fields only to find themselves a small minority of the workforce with hurdles to advancement. The situation is self-perpetuating, Younger said.

“You promote who you know,” she said. “The fewer women who are in positions of power, the fewer the women who get promoted.”

While a woman in Connecticut earns 78 cents for every dollar earned by a man, the gap shrinks and widens depending on where in the state you live.

The AAUW study found it was smallest in DeLauro’s New Haven-based 3rd District, where women earned  85 percent of what men did; and the widest in Rep. Jim Himes’ Fairfield County-based 4th District,  where many residents work in the financial services industry. Women in the 4th District earned only 72 percent of a man’s salary.

Gender income gap by Congressional district
The 5th district has the widest gap.
Member of Congress District Men Women Earnings Ratio Ranking in State
Larson (D) CT-1 $59,783 $46,134 77% 2
Courtney (D) CT-2 $59,810 $45,248 76% 3
DeLauro (D) CT-3 $57,557 $49,065 85% 1
Himes (D) CT-4 $76,405 $54,728 72% 5
Esty (D) CT-5 $60,224 $45,757 76% 3

Jobs in Connecticut with smaller wage gaps include those in education, food preparation and even the macho world of construction.

“I think the wage gap is smaller in the construction field because the few women who are in it have to be extraordinary,” Hill said.

Paycheck Fairness Act

After Lilly Ledbetter retired from Goodyear in 1998, she sued the company for paying her significantly less than her male counterparts. The lawsuit eventually reached the Supreme Court. But the high court denied Ledbetter’s claim because she did not file suit 180 days from her first pay check.

The problem was, Ledbetter did not know for years that she was the victim of pay discrimination.

Both Hill and Younger say transparency, or knowledge of how a company’s pay and promotion system works, is key to closing the wage gap.

“Where there is greater transparency, there is greater equality,” Hill said.

Government workers, prevalent in Washington, D.C., and Maryland where the wage gap is smallest, and those in unionized jobs tend to suffer less from a wage gap because it’s easier to know what colleagues earn. Although Connecticut has many unionized workers, they are not in popular fields like finance and medicine, where the wage gap is great.

Cases like Ledbetter’s inspired DeLauro to introduce the “Paycheck Fairness Act,” a bill that would, among other things, provide protection for workers who disclose salary information, increase workplace discrimination penalties and amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to require the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to collect pay information from employers regarding the sex, race and national origin of workers to use in the enforcement of pay discrimination laws.

“Over 50 years ago, President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act to end the ‘serious and endemic’ problem of unequal wages,” DeLauro said. “We need to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act to put real teeth in the Equal Pay Act and finally deliver on President Kennedy’s promise.”

DeLauro’s bill is stalled by the GOP’s unwillingness to move it to the floor in the House. It has a companion bill in the Senate sponsored by Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., that has failed to receive the 60 votes needed to overcome a procedural hurdle.

Gender gap in Connecticut
Among full-time, year-round workers older than 16.
Profession No. in workforce Median male income Median female income
Full-time, year-round civilian employed population 16 years and over 1,179,823 $61,253 $48,005
Management, business, science, and arts occupations: 549,224 $88,112 $65,277
– Management, business, and financial occupations: 254,168 $99,873 $69,278
Mangement Occupatoin 169,693 $100,924 $62,278
— Business and financial operations occupations 84,475 $87,916 $65,958
– Computer, engineering, and science occupations: 89,144 $86,234 $73,282
— Computer and mathematical occupations 42,298 $86,446 $77,171
— Architecture and engineering occupations 32,484 $85,654 $66,834
— Life, physical, and social science occupations 14,362 $90,335 $71,124
– Education, legal, community service, arts, and media occupations: 136,268 $70,445 $55,702
— Community and social services occupations 23,015 $55,244 $50,355
— Legal occupations 20,252 $125,615 $68,923
— Education, training, and library occupations 71,007 $67,433 $57,054
— Arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media occupations 21,994 $61,466 $50,923
– Healthcare practitioner and technical occupations: 69,644 $90,279 $69,560
— Health diagnosing and treating practitioners and other technical occupations 50,866 $110,610 $75,998
— Health technologists and technicians 18,778 $64,593 $51,096
Service occupations: 159,222 $39,399 $30,131
– Healthcare support occupations 29,510 $44,652 $33,928
– Protective service occupations: 25,388 $66,982 $45,182
— Fire fighting and prevention, and other protective service workers including supervisors 12,962 $60,424 $36,026
— Law enforcement workers including supervisors 12,426 $75,924 $67,825
– Food preparation and serving related occupations 35,082 $27,139 $25,861
– Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations 42,330 $35,442 $25,173
– Personal care and service occupations 26,912 $41,775 $30,316
Sales and office occupations: 260,621 $53,851 $41,309
– Sales and related occupations 112,113 $61,499 $37,146
– Office and administrative support occupations 148,508 $45,759 $41,769
Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations: 88,437 $50,195 $41,209
– Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations 1,676 $22,008 $17,120
– Construction and extraction occupations 48,799 $48,579 $34,018
– Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations 37,962 $51,743 $50,083
Production, transportation, and material moving occupations: 122,319 $45,064 $30,013
– Production occupations 75,744 $47,988 $30,020
– Transportation occupations 29,681 $46,709 $33,303
– Material moving occupations 16,894 $29,837 $25,811
Source: 2012 American Communities Survey, one-year estimates

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