The first Equal Pay Day in Wyoming is Monday, June 10, thanks to a proclamation issued by Gov. Mark Gordon in partnership with the Wyoming Council for Women.
The occasion marks how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year. In other words: Wyoming women worked 17 months and 10 days to earn what men earned in 12 months.
We are two months behind the U.S. average; the national Equal Pay Day was April 2. (It’s worth mentioning that these dates do not even come close to when race is added to the mix. Latina women’s Equal Pay Day in the U.S. will be Nov. 20.)
The governor’s nod is an important step toward tackling our state’s gender wage gap, which, according to a 2018 Wyoming Department of Workforce Services study, remains second widest in the nation behind Louisiana. According to the latest calculations by Cathy Connolly and WDWS, women earn 70.6 cents for every dollar men earn in Wyoming.
As I’ve explored in an earlier column series, gender wage gap calculations are not the simple comparison of, say, a man’s engineering salary and a woman’s receptionist wages. The 2018 WDWS study considered full-time, year-round workers in 228 occupations. It concluded that, on average, men earn more money than women — even when they work the same number of hours, year-round, in the same occupation with the same experience and education.
In Wyoming, we are proud to call ourselves the Equality State. We earned our nickname before we even achieved statehood: On Dec. 10, 1869, Wyoming territory passed the first law in U.S. history granting women the right to vote and hold public office. You may have heard the story that Wyoming only gave women the right to vote to gather enough citizens to become a state. But this account is apocryphal. Instead, when Wyoming attained statehood in 1890, Congress asked us to revoke women’s right to vote. Legislators refused.
In addition to leading the nation in voting equality, Wyoming women were first to vote in a general election, serve on a jury, be confirmed as a Justice of the Peace, be elected as governor — the list goes on.
And yet, in 2019, the Wyoming Legislature failed to pass two of three key bills that addressed the gender wage gap.
In 2019, many Wyomingites — including women — do not believe the gender wage gap exists.
In 2019, women do not earn equal pay for equal work.
We are celebrating the 150th anniversary of women’s suffrage in our state on Dec. 10, exactly six months after Equal Pay Day shines a light on the work we need to do. I hope the governor’s proclamation, which will be signed June 17 in Cheyenne, will help bring us closer to equality.
Editor’s note: Read the columnist’s full series on the gender wage gap: