If all things were equal, Connecticut men and women in would all take home the state’s median earnings of $54,184 a year.
But all things aren’t equal here, and while women make up 42.7 percent of the state’s workforce, census data shows that female full-time workers earn an average of $15,336 less than the state’s men each year, meaning that for every dollar a Connecticut man earns, a Connecticut woman makes 75.2 cents.
Sure, it beats the spread in Darien, where women in the workforce earn an average of $157,566 less every year than men in the workforce, with ladies pulling in 33.7 cents for every dollar made by a man.
It’s even close to the national average of women making 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, but it’s not exactly something to celebrate, said Sarah Jane Glynn, associate director of women’s economic policy at the Center for American Progress.
“I think it’s a huge problem, obviously for women, because if you’re being discriminated against in terms of your wages and not receiving a fair wage for your work, that’s problematic,” Glynn said.
“And I think that frankly, it’s also a problem for men, because at the end of the day, many men are in families with women and have female partners that are working. And if she’s not getting paid as much as she should be, that’s going to affect the family’s bottom line,” she continued.
While Jim O’Neill, spokesman for the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities said “the number of women who complain about not getting as much as their male counterparts is small,” the number of women earning significantly less than men is, in fact, pretty large.
Every year, the American Association of University Women explores the pay gap between men and women, calculating the disparity between what full-time, year-round male workers make, when compared to full-time, year-round female workers. In the 2013 round of the report, women were up to 77 cents per dollar, after a slow increase that began in 1971, when women were making 60 cents for every buck brought home by a man.
That difference encompasses men and women across companies, industries and job titles, rather than comparing two employees with similar skills in the same position, a process that Glynn said helps paint an accurate picture about American economic realities for men and women as a whole.
“Women are encouraged subtly – and explicitly in some instances – to go into jobs that offer lower wages overall,” she said. “And it’s not just about the choices that women are making, but there are larger societal pressures around what we think women can be.”
And the difference in the fields and positions Southwestern Connecticut women fill is at the heart of this area’s wage gap. For instance, in Bridgeport, 95 percent of full-time workers employed in architecture and engineering occupations are men, while only 5 percent are women. In Stamford, the spread is 79 percent men and 21 percent women; it’s 81 percent to 19 percent in Greenwich, and 87 percent to 13 percent in Danbury.
“In fields where it’s very clear how to be successful, women tend to prosper,” said Catherine Hill, director of research at AAUW.
“So if you want to be a doctor, it’s pretty clear that you go and get a medical degree. If you want to be a lawyer, you get a law degree, and women do well in school and are willing to make that investment in themselves,” she said. “But then in some of the financial and computer science areas, you can get a degree that is relevant, but … where the way that one advances is more informal.”
Not only are women less likely to make the same amount of money in many of these fields – like management, business and financial occupations, where the average earnings for Fairfield County women working full-time amounts to $79,198 a year, compared to men’s average salary of $130,091, a ratio of 61 cents per dollar – but women are also less likely to work in that sphere at all. In Fairfield County, women make up 35 percent of that sector, with even starker disparities in some of the more well-to-do towns.
In New Canaan, for instance, women earn 42 cents for each dollar a man makes, making its 58-cent wage gap second only to neighboring Darien. And while management, business and financial occupations claim more employees than any other fields in New Canaan, only 21.5 percent of staff in these fields are women, who earn more than $110,000 a year less than New Canaan men in the field on average.
And in New Canaan, like in Darien, there are significantly smaller percentages of women in the workforce than the national norm, especially for married women. An analysis of census figures shows that roughly 61 percent of married women across the country are part of the labor force, but in New Canaan, the figure is only 41.6 percent.
“I think part of it is that we have this nostalgic idea of what the family is supposed to look like, which is frankly a false memory,” Glynn said. “Most families didn’t ever look like ‘Leave it to Beaver,’ but we still have this romantic notion we cling to of Dad in the office and Mom staying home and baking cookies for the kids.”
And in our modern world, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
With women’s work financially undervalued when compared to men’s, “if something comes up, requiring someone to stay at home, it makes sense for the parent who makes less to be that person,” according to Glynn.
“And the flip side is that the fact that women are more likely than men to drop out of the workforce is one of the reasons behind the wage gap,” she said.