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Study Highlights Washington's Gender Wage Gap

Ted S. Warren
AP Images
Wendy Harrison, a waitress at the icon Grill in Seattle, carries food to a table as she works during lunchtime.

The year 2071 is when the state's gender wage gap is projected to close if things continue as they are.  

A new study commissioned by the Women's Funding Alliance shows that more immediate change would not only close the gender wage gap, but also boost the state's economy.

The study says there has been some progress.  Women here are more likely to earn a college degree than they were 20 years ago.  Voter turnout rates are higher for Washington women than in the nation as a whole, and the gender wage gap has narrowed since the 1950s. 

But pay inequity is persistent in Washington, as it is nationally.  

"Average income for men, as a whole, in Washington state is $53,000 a year; for women as a whole, it's $41,300, which gives us that gender wage gap," said Liz Vivian, executive director of the Women's Funding Alliance.

The majority of the wage gap is because of what experts call "gender segregation" in the workplace.  In other words, it makes a difference whether you're the attorney or the paralegal; the office support worker or the executive.

"Women work in the fields of office support, childcare, retail, home healthcare worker and those are fields that are overwhelmingly lower paying," Vivian noted.

It's not just women who are missing out.  Vivian says Washington's gross domestic product (GDP), the measurement of economic success, is suffering too.

"We would add $11.2 billion to our state GDP," she noted. "That's huge."

The study is meant to be motivating. It offers immediate recommendations for business and public sector leaders.  

Still, what might be the most motivating figures are these:  According to the study's researchers at the Institute for Women's Policy Research, Washington's gender wage gap ranks 29th in the nation.  Oregon ranks 14th.