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Is there a correlation between women in STEM jobs and the wage gap?

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According to Teach for America, only 15% of low-income 4th grade students in our country are proficient in science, less than half of the national average. What does this have to do with national Equal Pay Day coming up on April 8? Plenty.

The U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, "Education Supports Racial and Ethnic Equality in STEM" (2011) indicates that an important gap in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) jobs exists across gender lines. In 2009, women comprised 48% of the U.S. workforce, yet women only held 24% of STEM jobs. Over half of all jobs held by women are concentrated in the broad categories of sales, clerical, and service jobs.

Is there a correlation between the vast under-representation of women in STEM jobs and the wage gap? Likely yes.

Not only is the STEM gap an issue of equality, it contributes to the wage gap today. As reported on AOLjobs.com’s Nov. 2012 article titled, “Top STEM jobs: 8 Science and Tech Careers in High Demand,”

“While the majority of new and replacement STEM jobs require at least some post-secondary education, they're a good return on your education investment. The average U.S. salary is $43,460, compared with the average STEM salary of $77,880.”

A living wage for one adult with two children in Denver County amounts to a significant $53,354.

If left unaddressed, it will have substantial implications for the future of our nation. There are an estimated two million unfilled STEM jobs in the U.S., and they are projected to grow at a rate of 17% between 2008 and 2018.

Equal Pay Day 2014

It’s been 51 years since the Equal Pay Act passed, and yet Americans are still fighting pay discrimination. According to 9News.com in a report in April 2012, titled, “Data: Unequal wages hurt Colorado women, families,”

“Women in Colorado are paid just 79 cents for every dollar paid to men, amounting to a yearly gap in wages of $10,599.”

The gender wage gap remains statistically unchanged in the last year. Women's earnings were 76.5% of men's in 2012, compared to 77% in 2011, according to Census statistics released Sept. 17, 2013, based on the median earnings of all full-time, year-round workers.

What three things can you do?

  1. Call for research and current data

Urge the Department of Labor to speed up work on developing a tool to collect data on salaries, wages, and other benefits earned by employees of federal contractors and subcontractors. This tool is essential to giving employees and employers the information they need to end pay discrimination, and it is essential to giving the Department of Labor the information it needs to make sure employers receiving our tax dollars are following the law. Further, pay equity is an effective anti-poverty strategy.

  1. Use your voice as a woman

Research shows when negotiating salaries, women are generally less likely than men to ask for what they deserve. Women may also feel it is taboo to discuss salaries with co-workers. So understand your worth in your field, check industry salary reports and speak up in the workplace when you are doing an outstanding job, particularly when you have the quantitative results to prove it.

  1. Become a member or ally of 9to5 Colorado

Locally, there are two free community events taking place on this year’s Equal Pay Day. One event is a variation on a noon rally held every year -- a flash mob dance with a Dolly Parton theme and other fun parts of the 9to5 movie. To learn more about the flash mob dance rehearsals and the actual location of the event at noon on April 8, click here. If you can’t attend the noon event, 9to5 Colorado is hosting an evening social designed to engage, educate, and excite its members and allies about how the pay gap for women and people of color impacts our daily lives. It will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Governor Park on Logan Street in downtown Denver.

(Sources include the National Pay Equity Committee and livingwage.mit.edu)

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