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Fixing the Wage Gap Takes Systemic Change and Guts

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Lindsey Moon
The wage gap in Iowa is smallest for women who take jobs that are typically held by men, like conservation or plumbing. In this photo, Erika Billerbeck smiles with a seasonal DNR officer at Coralville Lake.

On average across the United States, women make around 78 cents for every dollar a man makes. In Iowa, that means the average woman can expect to make around ten thousand dollars less than her male counterpart, according to research by the Iowa Office of Workforce Development. 

That gap is even more drastic for minority women. African American women can expect to make 61 cents for every dollar a man makes, and Latinas make 58 cents on every dollar. 

During this hour of River to River, host Emily Woodbury talks with Kristen Corey, Program Planner for the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women and Catherine Hill, Vice President for Research for the American Association of University Women. 

Hill says that despite the rhetoric that women choose lower paying careers, studies have shown that the wage gap exists even if you account for career choices and education level. 

"We looked at people one year out of college; they all had bachelor’s degrees. They went to similar colleges and universities. We then look at all the other factors that affect pay – hours at work, occupation, sector of job, and what we found was that there was still a 7 percent gap that was unexplained," Hill explains.  "Women have narrowed the pay gap, but they haven't closed the wage gap." 

During this hour of River to River, we also hear from Di Findley, Director of Iowa CareGivers and Diane Ramsey, CEO of Iowa Women Lead Change. They say working to raise wages for stereotypically female careers like direct care would help the problem. Ramsey also notes that educating girls to be better negotiators when it comes to talking about salaries would also go a long way. 

"Women don't ask," Ramsey says. "We need to be better about teaching women to advocate for themselves." 

Lindsey Moon is IPR's Digital Producer