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Gender Wage Gap Narrower In Hawaii, But Pandemic Greatly Impacting Women In The Workforce

Kevin Schneider from Pixabay

The wage gap between women and men is narrower in Hawaii than in most of the country. That's according to a recent study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While that's a positive indicator for gender equality, some in the state are skeptical and believe more can be done.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics ranked Hawaii eighth in the country when it came to the overall amount women earned comapred to men. Based on 2019 data, for every dollar men were paid -- women earned roughly 85 cents.

The national average was 81 cents.

State commission on the status of women executive director Khara Jabola-Carolus says she wants to optimistic about the findings, but is skeptical.

"The new data may be indicative more of economic injustice than gender justice progressing," she said. "I worry that it may be more due to the stagnation in men's wages and the low wages relative to other metropolitan areas in the U.S. and Hawaii, than authentic advances in women's respect and value in the workplace." 

Jabola-Carolus says the positive findings could be a result of a 2018 state law that prohibits employers from asking an applicant's salary history.

Since the bureau's findings are based on data from 2019 -- the wage gap likely changed.

President Joe Biden earlier this month said the amount of women dropping out of the workforce is a national emergency.

"We already have data that the majority of job losses in Hawaii have been to women" Jabola-Carolus said.

"Women are concentrated because of gender role stereotypes into industries that were decimated by the pandemic -- the service sector, hospitality in particular."

Jabola-Carolus anticipates the effects of the pandemic to impact women's earnings and wealth in the future.

But even without a pandemic, Jabola-Carolus says there is still a long way to address equal pay for women in the state. 

A major hurdle is the lack of paid family leave among employers.

Casey Harlow was an HPR reporter and occasionally filled in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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