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Show her the money

Kimberly Nicoletti

In Pitkin County, women earn 83 cents to every dollar men make – a mere 4 cents more than the state average.But many young women don’t realize the wage gap still exists, said Gretchen McComb, president of The Women’s Foundation of Colorado. For example, women studying law see an equal number of men and women in school, and they think the career world treats genders equally. Though that may be the case in many businesses, it’s not the whole story. A study at the University of Denver showed female attorneys in Colorado earned 60 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earned in 1999.”When women come into a big firm, they become disillusioned because they realize they’re not getting paid as much as their [male] peers,” McComb said.The wage gap in Pitkin County between women and men is 16.66 percent, or $7,000 per year. The average annual income for women in Pitkin County is $30,869, slightly above the state average of $29,324.Though the University of Denver study compared apples to apples – the same type of law practiced and the same tenure between women and men – the Pitkin County statistics are based on census data of median income, so it’s an average of what women and men make in varying positions.”Some say women choose to be in lower paying jobs, and that may be the case, but it’s also indicative of not as many women in managerial and executive positions,” McComb said. “And women don’t tend to be as aggressive as men in wage negotiation and in standing up for their rights.”The Women’s Foundation helps lead change so women in Colorado can be equal participants in society. Locally, it funds the annual Girls to Women, Women to Girls Conference, which inspires eighth-graders from Aspen and downvalley to envision professional careers. Before the program began 10 years ago, national surveys noted that as girls reached high school, they “dumbed down” because of social pressures, such as not wanting to be “too smart” for boys. There was no data to support that finding in Pitkin County, but the conference was started here to prevent it from occurring, said event organizer Sue Smedstad.The Women’s Foundation also supports outreach programs statewide to empower girls to pursue jobs traditionally considered “men’s careers.” “In engineering and technology, we’re not seeing equality between men and women,” McComb said. “Even though we’ve made a lot of progress in the last 20 years, there are still signals sent to girls – we’re still not seeing enough encouragement.”But Colorado fares better than the national average. Statewide, women comprise 37 percent of the state’s managerial and professional specialty occupations, compared to 31 percent nationally. Women fill 29 percent of Colorado’s technical jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.”In various ways, survey results reveal that not only do women still get the message that their contributions to the industry aren’t as welcome as men’s, but so do girls,” according to a written summary on the status of women in Colorado, by The Women’s Foundation of Colorado. Corporate environments geared toward men lead women to feel alienated; national studies have shown that women with doctoral degrees and careers in science and engineering leave the field at seven times the rate that men do, according to The Women’s Foundation. A study by the Society for Women Engineers found that salaries for male engineers start low, dramatically increase after five to seven years, then continue to increase, whereas salaries for female engineers start high then plateau at five to seven years.For more information about The Women’s Foundation of Colorado and its studies, visit http://www.wfco.org.Kimberly Nicoletti’s e-mail address is knicoletti@aspentimes.com


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