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Tech sector contributes to Washington’s gender gap in earnings

UPDATED: Fri., Feb. 17, 2017

Washington has a bigger wage gap between women’s and men’s earnings than surrounding states.

Women working full-time in the Evergreen State in 2015 took home median wages of $797 per week compared to $1,025 per week for men.

As a ratio, women earned about 78 cents for every dollar earned by men, according to a recent report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In Idaho, women earned 81 cents for every dollar earned by men, which was also the national average. In Oregon it was 83 cents; in California, 85 cents.

Blame Washington’s tech sector for some of the disparity, said Matthew Insco, an economist with the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ western regional office in San Francisco.

“One of the reasons is the industry mix,” Insco said. “Washington has a higher concentration of tech jobs.”

Computer, technology and engineering jobs tend to be higher paid, and they’re also fields dominated by men, he said. In professional job categories, only about 9 percent of women are employed in computer and engineering jobs.

In contrast, women dominate the fields of education and health care, which are lower on the pay scale. About 68 percent of professional jobs in those fields are held by women.

Nationally, the gap in women’s and men’s pay has decreased since 1979, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics started measuring it, Insco said. Women earned 62 cents for every dollar men earned that year.

“As women have gravitated toward the higher paying occupations, this ratio has increased significantly over time,” he said.

Some of the gender wage gap also can be attributed to hours worked, Insco said. The wage comparisons are based on full-time employment of 35 hours per week or greater. But men, in general, work more hours per week than women, he said.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ figures offer “a snapshot of what the average man versus the average woman is earning,” Insco said. “We’re not saying a man with the same exact job, education and experience is necessarily paid more than a woman with the same job, education and experience.”

The U.S. Census Bureau also looks at differences in what men and women earn at a county level, though those figures are calculated slightly differently.

In Spokane County, men earned a median wage of $926 per week in 2015, compared to $713 per week for women. Women earned about 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.

In Kootenai County, men earned a median wage of $800 per week in 2015, compared to $670 per week for women. Women earned about 84 cents for every dollar earned by men.

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