January 6, 2013

Editorial: Equal pay still an issue


---- — If you found out that you were being paid 15 percent less than a co-worker, even though you had the same job and qualifications, you would be angry, right?

Well, many women in New York state have a right to feel that way.

A new report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in 2011 — the latest year that statistics were available — women in New York who were full-time wage and salary workers had median weekly earnings of $760, which is 85 percent of the $894 earnings for their male counterparts.

The report notes that the 2011 women’s-to-men’s earnings ratio in New York dipped from 86.8 percent in 2010. That is not a movement in the right direction.

And New York is actually doing better than the national average. Nationwide, women earned $684, which is just 82.2 percent of the $832 median for men.

Bureau of Labor Statistics studies show that in New York, the ratio of women’s to men’s earnings stayed around 80 percent from 1997 until 2002 and has “generally trended upwards” since then.

The latest report shows that median weekly earnings of women in full-time wage and salary positions in 2011 ranged from $564 in Montana to $878 in Connecticut. States with the highest wages for women were those along the Eastern Seaboard, including, in addition to Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Maryland.

By the way, median weekly earnings for men were lowest in Arkansas, at $675, and highest in Connecticut, at $1,106.

Of the seven states with women’s-to-men’s ratios of 85 percent or higher, three (California, Arizona and Nevada) were in the West, two (Vermont and New York) were in the Northeast, and two (Delaware and Tennessee) were in the South.

Not all of the disparity can be attributed to unfair pay scales; other factors are in play.

“The differences among the states reflect, in part, variation in the occupations and industries found in each state and in the age composition of each state’s labor force,” the bureau said in its report. “In addition, comparisons by gender are on a broad level and do not control for factors such as educational attainment, which can be significant in explaining earnings differences.”

But sometimes, sadly, the explanation is simply that businesses think they can get away with paying women less. And that is unforgivable.

More women than men are now graduating from college, and females have certainly proven themselves as hard-working and dedicated employees, capable of providing strong and smart leadership.

Every company in the North Country should assess its payroll and ensure there are no gender-based injustices.

Then, in the future, that women’s-to-men’s ratio that the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports will be where it should be: at 100 percent.