Manu Fernandez, AP
People take part during a protest against sexism and gender violence in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018. Many thousands are expected to join rallies in various cities around the world to protest against sexist violence.

Utah is a state of economic prosperity. We lead the nation in business opportunity, economic growth, employment rates and fiscal responsibility. While we are rightly proud of these accomplishments, Utah has one distinction for which we are not proud — we are at the bottom of the list of states in the nation for gender pay equality.

The gender wage gap, the difference between wages earned by men and women, has existed since women entered the workforce. Businesses of all sizes and industries experience a gender pay gap, including women-owned businesses. In Utah, this gap is sustained by a unique set of cultural norms and business practices.

From our strong personal relationships and years of working with the business community, we know that no business leader sets out to intentionally pay female employees less than their male counterparts. However, the gap exists and, despite best intentions, persists.

While closing the gender wage gap may seem daunting, the good news is, individually and collectively, we have the power to correct the problem through business leaders making a conscious decision to evaluate and address the gap in their own organizations. Our business community has the opportunity to lead out on this issue and show Utahns and the nation that we not only value equal pay for equal work, but that we are leaders in finding solutions.

And finding ways to close the gender wage gap will have benefits far beyond workplace equality. With Utah’s tight labor market, we need to strengthen our workforce and talent pool to fill the current and newly created jobs in our state. Utilizing the full potential of the labor market means making sure all work is valued and compensated fairly and consistently.

For these reasons, the Salt Lake Chamber and the Women’s Leadership Institute have put together a guidebook titled “Best Practices Guide for Closing the Gender Wage Gap.” This guidebook is full of policies, programs and actions companies can use to close the gender wage gap. We worked for months gathering research-based practices and policies and collecting feedback and insight from Utah business leaders to create a toolkit of practical and pragmatic practices that companies can start implementing today and into the future.

The “Best Practices Guide for Closing the Gender Wage Gap” is divided into five sections: evaluation, education, recruitment, retention and advancement. These five sections work together and build upon each other, listing actions that can be taken in the short term and those policies that can be adopted over time.

The guidebook does not need to be followed step by step, beginning to end. Rather, we encourage business leaders to review their companies, identify areas for improvement and create their own plans for implementation.

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One recommendation we make in the advancement section is for companies to take the ElevateHER Challenge. The ElevateHER Challenge, developed by the Women’s Leadership Institute, is a nonprescriptive, research-based action plan to help companies transform women’s leadership in their respective organizations. The challenge focuses on the key benefits of increasing women’s leadership and includes a multitude of resources for companies to tailor policies to their own unique work environments. To date, more than 250 Utah organizations have taken the challenge and have seen the positive impacts of elevating women in the workplace.

While we know the gender pay gap will not be fixed in one day, with one resource, one policy change or one training, every step we take in the right direction gets us closer to closing the gap. We also know that what we do today sets the stage for our state’s future economy and prosperity. We invite you to join us, the Salt Lake Chamber and the Women’s Leadership Institute, in working to close the gender wage gap in Utah.