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Region’s pay gap among worst

Northwest Indianhas large amount service jobs which don't pay nearly as well as manufacturing jobs tend be dominated by women.

Northwest Indiana has a large amount of service jobs which don't pay nearly as well as manufacturing jobs and tend to be dominated by women. | File~Sun-Times Media

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Indiana Pay Gap

According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, Indiana’s 1st Congressional District helps bring the state’s average women’s salary down to 75 percent of men’s salary, 2 percentage points lower than the nation average of 77 percent. How Indiana’s other congressional districts compare:

1st District 67 percent

8th District 74 percent

3rd District 75 percent

4th District 75 percent

2nd District 78 percent

6th District 78 percent

9th District 79 percent

7th District 90 percent

Updated: November 30, 2012 6:06AM



Women in Northwest Indiana need a pay raise.

A study by the National Partnership for Women and Families shows that the state’s 1st District is seventh-worst among all 435 U.S. congressional districts for the pay gap between men and women.

Women in the district make just 67 percent of what men make, an average of $17,330 less, according to the study.

The district ranks worst in the state. Women in the next worst district, the 8th District, make 74 percent of what men make.

Sarah Crawford, director of workplace fairness with NPWF, said the data show the pay gap between men and women remains a problem.

The study didn’t analyze why the pay gap is so wide in Northwest Indiana, but Amy Atchison, assistant professor of political science and international relations at Valparaiso University, said Northwest Indiana’s manufacturing economy likely is an influence. Manufacturing jobs are usually some of the best-paying jobs because of unions, but most of the jobs are held by men.

“What jobs does that leave for women?” Atchison said. “Usually lower-paying service jobs.”

Those jobs tend to be dominated by women, she said.

She noted other congressional districts that make up the top 10 worst in pay gap also have a predominance of male-dominated jobs. For instance, Atchison said, one district in Louisiana is known for its shrimping industry. Its other big industry is service.

A district in West Virginia that made the top 10 includes a coal mine, which again likely offers high-paying jobs mostly filled by men.

Elizabeth Gingrich, a lawyer and associate professor of business law at VU, pointed to “lots of divorces” in the district as also possibly playing a role. Gingrich said single mothers who have stable jobs with health benefits are often hesitant to draw attention to any wage gap for fear they would be punished.

“She’s not going to stir up any kind of trouble,” she said.

Fairness law could help

Although Northwest Indiana’s pay gap is likely attributable to the different jobs its men and women hold, studies show the pay gap still exists for men and women with the same jobs and backgrounds, meaning a female banker will make less on average than a male banker, Crawford said. That holds true even in some female-dominated industries, such as nursing.

One of the reasons women don’t make as much is because employers will often use the “mommy tax” or dinging a female employee because she will likely take time off in the future to have a child or care for her family, Atchison said.

“It’s not a massive conspiracy against women, but the market doesn’t reward gaps in employment,” she said. “Without any conscious thought, men are advantaged over women from the get-go.”

Data support these assumptions by employers, showing that women do take more time off than men.

The effect is that women are more likely to live in poverty, which holds true for Porter County. Atchison said data from the VU’s Community Research and Service Center show that 10.9 percent of women in Porter County live in poverty, while 8 percent of men do.

The NPFW says to end the disparity, Congress needs to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would make it easier for women to fight pay discrimination and enhance the government’s investigative authority, Crawford said.

Atchison said she doesn’t know if the bill will pass any time soon, however, as the pay gap has not been a hot-button topic in the upcoming elections. “This is not one where women are turning out in mass,” she said.

Another factor to consider is that women typically aren’t as willing to negotiate their pay rate as men are, Atchison said, and don’t learn these skills early enough.

“I would argue that we need to be ensuring from a young age that our young women understand what is happening in the labor market and that they are at a disadvantage,” Atchison said.

At the same time, she said, women have little recourse if they don’t have laws to enforce their positions.

Gingrich said that she, too, thinks the proposed law is doomed for the near future. Even if it were passed, she said, women would have a tough time even knowing if they suffer from pay discrimination until they have easy access to the pay of their male counterparts.

She suggested an exisisting federal law that requires large companies, such as Facebook or Microsoft, to give their pay information to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, be expanded to other companies, such as any company that takes part in interstate commerce and employs more than 15 people.

“Why not spread this to other institutions?” Gingrich said.



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