Utah has historically ranked dead last for salary disparity between men and women, and, there isn’t much progress in other key areas such as mental health and education either, according to a new study out this week.
Median annual wages for women in Utah sank by more than $1,000 from 2015 to 2018, according to the study. Utah women now earn on average $35,000 a year, down from $36,059 three years ago. The national average is $40,000.
The findings were published by the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Women’s Policy Research, presented on Thursday as part of a YWCA conference in downtown Salt Lake City.
Titled “The Well-Being of Women in Utah,” the report also looked at women’s labor force participation, health and safety and educational attainment.
Another troubling trend researchers found was in women’s mental health. The report found the suicide rate of the three-year period increased from a rate of 9.1 to 10.1 per 100,000 women. The average number of days per month that women reported poor mental health also ticked up.
Erin Jemison, YWCA’s director of public policy, called the trends alarming.
“It’s one thing to have the data not change dramatically or maybe just go a little bit in the right direction, but to have it actually go in the wrong direction is not what we’re hoping for,” she said.
The study noted that the gap for wages and educational attainment widened significantly for Hispanic and Native American women.
Panelists on Thursday included state representatives and business leaders who discussed obstacles for women in the workplace. Jemison says one factor could be that women are still disproportionately clustered in lower wage jobs.
“We’re seeing women who are in the labor force just as much, if not more, than the national average here in Utah, which is not what people expect to see, but we don’t see them in the managerial and leadership levels," said Jemison.
Jemison said paid family leave and access to affordable child care are two policy priorities for the YWCA in the coming year.