Stay-at-home moms who then go back into the workforce don't compare to the men who never left the workforce and have more experience and get paid for more experience. —Marty Carpenter, spokesman for the Salt Lake Chamber
SALT LAKE CITY — Lisa Marshall has no complaints about her work as a hospice nurse.
She says she is paid well, works part time on nights and weekends so that she can also focus on her three young children, and finds her bosses and colleagues are understanding when a shortage of baby sitters occasionally keeps her from a meeting. She lives and works in Provo and couldn't be happier with her situation.
"I'm from Canada and I don't think that I'd be able to get such a good job that pays what it pays there," she said.
But website 247WallSt.com released a review Thursday morning that named the Orem-Provo area as the worst-paying city for women in the nation. In a review of the country's 100 most populous metropolitan areas, Ogden-Clearfield came in a close second.
Nationally, women make 77 cents for every dollar paid to a man. A 2012 report from the National Partnership for Women and Families found women in Utah fared even worse than female workers in other states across the country; Utah women are paid only 69 cents for every dollar paid to a man.
Marty Carpenter, spokesman for the Salt Lake Chamber, said the way the data were compared paints "an incomplete picture" and could say more about culture than dollars.
"Stay-at-home moms who then go back into the workforce don't compare to the men who never left the workforce and have more experience and get paid for more experience," Carpenter said.
"More years in the workforce is more pay. Everyone agrees that a man and woman who can do the same job at the same skill level with the same experience should be compensated equally."
The 24/7 Wall Street website analysis compared the median earnings of men and women who worked full time, year-round in the past 12 months, focusing on those in the 100 largest metropolitan statistical areas as designated by U.S. Census Bureau data. All data were from 2011, the most recent available, according to the website. It found that women in the Provo-Orem are make 62 percent of what men in the area earn, an average difference of almost $20,000 in pay. Those in Ogden-Clearfield made 65 percent of men's wages.
The review conceded that there were some additional factors to consider.
"The cities that tend to have the biggest gender wage gap have higher concentrations of industries where earnings are unequal," the website states. "Wichita, Kan., and Ogden, Utah, have high proportions of manufacturing jobs."
The website also cited a researcher from the Institute For Women’s Policy Research who said Utah has a "more traditional culture."
Carpenter said, "If they are to match that study with one on the communities with the most stay-at-home moms or women who work part time from home or work part time to be home with children, we'd be high there, too. But looking at either one of them can give a skewed perspective," Carpenter said. "It's not that the data is wrong, it's just painting an incomplete picture."
Carrie Mayne, chief economist at the Utah Department of Workforce Services, said that another component not considered by the analysis is the young age of those in the workforce in the Orem-Provo and even Ogden-Clearfield areas. Utah on the whole has a younger workforce population, she said.
"When you look at a young workforce, you see women in their childbearing years who will be exiting and entering the labor force, interrupting their labor force experience," Mayne said. "Then they've interrupted that and may have to start with a new employer or new position and rebuild their track with employers and raises."
Utah also has a high population of part-time workers and the rate of part-time work is higher among women than men, Mayne said. Also, there are differences in pay for different jobs and industries and occupation choice is a major factor in pay.
"What we always try to emphasize with job seekers is to be aware of differences in pay for different occupations," Mayne said. "Be educated on what a job really pays, be realistic about what things pay."
Women dominate in healthcare support occupations as well as teaching, Mayne said.
The 24/7 Wall Street analysis also looked at employment composition by sector. It found the women in Ogden-Clearfield and Orem-Provo working in personal care and service occupations experienced the largest pay gap, with women making 40 percent of what men are paid in Ogden-Clearfield and 44 percent in Orem-Provo.
Marshall, for one, would not have been considered in the study, but she reported that she makes more than her husband and feels she is paid fairly and equally to her colleagues as a nurse. She said the real difference between her pay and her husband's is not gender, but the jobs they chose. Her job in health care simply pays more than her husband's job in social work.
Zach Bitner, a sales manager at BrainStorm Inc., a software training company in American Fork, said there are more male employees than female employees at the company but said that is reflected in the applications they receive. He, too, pointed to the impact of more women potentially choosing to stay home in Utah County.
BrainStorm Inc., though, which was recognized with a 2012 Utah Work/Life Award by the Utah Department of Workforce Services, focuses on employee performance, not gender.
"I wouldn't be so naive to say it (the gender pay gap) doesn't potentially exist, but in a small organization it probably exists less than it would in a larger corporation," Bitner said.
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