The one state where a gender pay gap will live for another century


Source: Institute for Women’s Policy Research
Source: Institute for Women’s Policy Research. The U.S. gender wage gap is expected to close in 2058. The map shows how many years faster or slower the wage gap will close in each state compared with the U.S.

Wyoming is home to a yawning and enduring wage gap between men and women’s pay, according to data highlighted Tuesday for Equal Pay Day.

The Cowboy State has the longest expected wait within the U.S. for women workers to earn the same as men, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research reports.

Wyoming’s gender wage gap — the difference in earnings between full-time, year-round women and men adult workers — is projected to close in 2159, says IWPR, a Washington-based think tank. So, it’ll be 143 years until Wyoming women may make the same money as men.

As seen in the chart, that span is 101 years longer than for the country as a whole. The U.S. pay gap is expected to close in 2058, in about 42 years from now.

Wyoming’s wait period eclipses those in other states. The No. 2 longest wait is in Louisiana, where the gap is seen closing by 2106 (90 years from now and 48 years longer than the U.S.). And the No. 3 longest wait is in North Dakota, where the gap is seen closing in 2104 (88 years from now and 46 years longer than the U.S.).

The industrial makeup of these areas could be behind the pay-gap trends. Mining, which pays relatively well (the sector’s annual mean wage is $63K vs $48K among all U.S. occupations), is a dominant industry in Wyoming. Women make up about one-in-seven jobs within the U.S. mining and logging industries.

Woman’s Work has written before about ongoing inequity in the workplace. Women’s earnings are about 80% of men’s among full-time workers. They need to increasingly enter well-paid jobs and industries to make as much as men. But currently women dominate the most common low-wage occupations, such as childcare workers and home health aides.

At the other end of the inequity spectrum among states, the gender wage gap is expected to close the fastest in Florida — by 2038, or 20 years ahead of the U.S. In both California and Maryland, the gaps are expected to close by 2042, or 16 years before the U.S.



Diversity in progressive movements part 1: The problem with calling for an “intersectional approach”


I’ve spent close to two decades working in progressive movements to advance social justice in the context of reproductive rights, HIV/AIDS, women’s rights, and international development. Throughout, diversity and representation within the U.S.-based organizations and transnational movements I have worked with and for have been seemingly intractable challenges. The largely white, highly educated, (upper) middle class leaders of mainstream women’s and progressive organizations and movements, for example, engage in some genuine hand-wringing about the lack of women of color, young women, positive women, women from the Global South, and [insert factor(s) of marginalization here] women in their membership, not to mention leadership and governance. They’ve even spent a lot of money on “diversity” initiatives—retreats, trainings, organizational change consultants and coaches, vision statements, and (my personal favorite) branded tchotchkes like lanyards and stress balls promoting said initiatives.

And still, nothing really changes. Take, for example, the forceful commentaries of reproductive justice advocates such as Sister Song’s Monica Simpson, Kris Ford of the Women’s Health and Justice Initiative, and acclaimed race, gender, and law scholar, Dorothy Roberts, whose recent critiques of the narrow construction of the U.S. pro-choice movement span more than two decades. Or the seminal writing and analysis of Gita Sen, Caren Grown, and Peggy Antrobus captured in Development Crises and Alternative Visions, written more than 30 years ago and still entirely relevant today. And Chandra Mohanty’s 1986 critique of Western feminists’ construction of Third World women, which she revisited with many of the same themes twenty years later.

For those of us who exist outside “the establishment,” we often speak of how our organizations and movements need to adopt an “intersectional approach*” in order to recognize and address the way that multiple identities, including, for example, race and class—not simply biological sex—shape the many and varied experiences of discrimination and resistance within what is often treated as a singular category of “woman.” In theory, not only would this foster more diverse participation and representation in our ranks, but also broader political agendas that speak to the realities of all women, not just those of straight, middle class white women who are the face and voice of mainstream second-wave liberal feminism.

But to be clear, it’s less the marginalized voices among us who need to adopt an “intersectional approach,” given that we actually experience it first hand, than the leaders of established, mainstream progressive organizations. As such, we are essentially hoping and/or asking for something over which we, being excluded from that very leadership, have very little influence or control. In turn, the problem is at least three-fold. First, it relies upon people who may not even be aware of or willing to acknowledge their own privilege to understand the concept of intersectionality. Assuming that barrier is overcome, then those same people must know how to translate the concept into practice, a task that bedevils even the best theories and analytical constructs (the difficulties serving as a convenient excuse for not doing anything). Finally, adopting something new requires action; a conscious choice to relinquish the comfort and familiarity of the status quo, including the unearned benefits of our own privilege.

It’s a frustrating place to find yourself, though not without its own benefits. Being “other” is often an elixir for building solidarity and resistance—my closest friendships and alliances have been built around shared, intersectional experiences of living on the margins: invisible and silenced despite (or in spite of) the valuable skills, knowledge and experience you have gained via your social location. Being “other” can provide access to radical subjugated knowledge, ways of seeing and doing that are more inclusive, authentic, democratic, and just.

So, it comes down to, how do we find/claim space to apply this knowledge? Space that has resources, visibility, and reach, in order to make a difference? That will be the subject of part 2 of this essay.


*A concept put forward by UCLA law professor, Kimberlé Crenshaw, to make visible the multiple identities that women of color occupy—based not only on gender, but also race, class and otherwise—and which have often been rendered invisible within the mainstream women’s movement in the U.S.

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