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Simon: Wyoming would benefit from more women in office
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Simon: Wyoming would benefit from more women in office

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I’ve heard it said recently that “men represent women superbly” in the legislature and other elected offices across the Equality State.

It isn’t true.

Take two specific, data-driven examples: the Pink Tax and the gender wage gap.

Recent research shows that representation has a substantial and direct impact on discriminatory policies, especially the Pink Tax — the common name for gender-based economic discrimination.

Items labeled “women’s shirts” or “women’s pants” are subject to higher tariff rates and retail prices. That means that women have to pay more for products — not because those products are more expensive to produce or ship, but because they are sold “for women.”

Importantly, in places with more women in elected office, there aren’t additional tariffs on women’s goods. In other words, women pay what men pay when more women run, win, serve, and lead in the political arena.

We also see more policies, such as pay transparency, that close the gender pay gap. In places where more women hold office, women are more likely to earn what men earn.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that women in America earned higher salaries on average in only 12 of 113 occupations.

Men earned more on average — even in female-dominated professions like healthcare, education, and office support.

The majority of all nurses are women both nationally and in Wyoming. Yet a survey of more than 7,000 nurses across the country shows that men in the profession make $7,297 more on average than their female counterparts — despite having less education and being less likely to hold the same professional certifications.

Why does this continue to happen?

Pay gaps persist largely because of a lack of policies to address them. That’s a problem the Equality State can solve.

One practice that would close the pay gap in Wyoming (and that is both pro-business and costs nothing) is wage transparency.

Wage transparency means that employees cannot be fired for talking about their wages. Businesses commit to a compensation strategy, they think about how they value employees, and what they’ll do to attract top talent.

A recent report from PayScale shows this single shift results in decreased turnover, higher job satisfaction, and greater employee productivity. A win for employees and a win for employers.

A wage transparency bill would be simple to advance in Wyoming and would be a big step toward closing Wyoming’s wage gap.

Why does closing the gender wage gap matter so much?

We know from experience — and research — that when women have more resources, they reinvest them in their local communities.

Right now, Wyoming needs that local investment. For every dollar the gender wage gap denies to Wyoming women, the more our local economies suffer.

Not to mention that, over the course of a lifetime, white women will earn nearly $500,000 less than white men doing comparable work (the losses are even greater for Indigenous, Black, and Latinx women). After a lifetime of underpayment, this also leaves women uniquely vulnerable to poverty as seniors.

We need to take a hard look at the economic penalties that women face in the Equality State—and who is running for and serving in office—and take steps to improve them.

Here are a just a few ways to fix the existing, expensive, and systemic discrimination hurting women:

1. Pass the wage transparency bill (HB188 from 2020)

2. Remove economic penalties currently placed on women

3. Support ready and capable women running for office (and elect more of them)

We can and should populate our town councils, county commissions, and state legislature—and everything from our board rooms to our operating rooms—with the skilled and brilliant women all around us. For too long, women have been excluded because systems don’t support them, pay them less, and cost them more. It is long past time to change this.

Wyoming’s communities — and our economy — will benefit when we do.

Jennifer M. Simon is senior policy advisor at the Equality State Policy Center and the founder of the Wyoming Women’s Action Network. Gov. Matt Mead appointed her to the Wyoming Council for Women in 2015.


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