Wage Equity in Washington

By Amee Bahr

Sometimes I ask myself in what century am I living? Although Thurston County boasts a median income of $62,286, the average woman working full time makes $.68 to every $1.00 made by a male counterpart. This disparity does not account for lower wages related to race, ethnicity, parental status, or LGBTQ identity. According to one study, at the rate we are going women will not reach pay equity until 2071 [1]. This leads to the question how does society decrease the wage gap? The YWCA of Olympia leads the way by creating Wage Equity Initiative (W.E.I.). By engaging local businesses, the initiative hopes to eliminate the wage gap with female role models, on the job training, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programs for women. The YWCA encourages employers to adopt at least three strategies from the W.E.I., which may include workplace flexibility, removing bias from the hiring process, empowering women to negotiate, increasing wage transparency, and gender/racial diversity within senior levels. The YWCA’s W.E.I. team offers issue education, outreach, guidance, and tools for success, while tracking progress and celebrating achievements. The YWCA W.E.I. program offers an excellent opportunity for Thurston County businesses to make a difference in the lives of women and families because we cannot wait until 2071 to reach pay equity.

For more information on this program and other work being done to bridge the wage gap, visit www.ywcaofolympia.org.

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[1] The Status of Women in Washington: Forging Pathways to Leadership & Economic Opportunity. Cynthia Hess, Ph.D, and Jessica Milli, Ph.D. Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Women’s Finding Alliance. February 2015.