Although a consultant studying whether women working for state government earn as much as their male counterparts found "gross inequities do not exist," women gathered for an early morning legislative meeting disagreed.

More than a dozen women representing several organizations crowded the Legislature's interim appropriations committee meeting at 7 a.m. Wednesday to listen to the presentation of the Gender Pay Equity Report.They didn't like what they heard.

"We got what we expected," said Jean Binyon, president of the Utah Pay Equity Coalition. "I think they were overly positive and optimistic about the results of their study."

Barbara Toomer, who served on the state Fair Employment Review Commission, was also disappointed. "It's pretty evident that unless they're forced into it, they're not going to do anything," Toomer said.

The nine-page report ordered by lawmakers last session drew no conclusions, but one of the two consultants who wrote the report with the state Department of Human Resource Management summed it up for the committee.

"A look at the data says that gross inequities do not exist in this pay plan," said Patricia Freston, chairwoman of the state Human Resource Advisory Committee and personnel manager for Questar Corp.

According to the report, women employed by the state earn an average of slightly more than 93 percent of what their male counterparts make. The percentage for the largest sector of state employment, so-called classified positions, ranges from just over 90 percent to more than 104 percent.

The report stated 43 percent of the state's nearly 12,000 employees are women and that most of them are in positions within the lowest-paying salary ranges.

The jobs that fall within the highest-paying salary ranges usually go to men, the report said, but noted that women and men whose jobs put them in the same salary range "are generally paid about the same."

Differences in men's and women's paychecks from the state may be due to four factors identified in the report - total years of service, longevity in current positions, promotional patterns and breaks in service.

The average length of service for women is more than 95 percent of the time males spend in state jobs. The report noted some women on average do make less than their male counterparts even though they have worked for the state longer.

"It's very difficult to draw quick conclusions," said state Human Resource Management Director Earl Banner, who called for future studies to chart the state's progress.

Gov. Norm Bangerter also called for further efforts. "While the survey findings prove that state government is doing well in the area of pay equity, more must be done," he said.

But the governor stopped short of saying he supported a statewide affirmative action plan. "As you know, I'm not one who believes in quotas. I think that can be very dangerous," Bangerter said.