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Alaska women make substantially less than male counterparts

By Bonney Bowman 9:17 PM March 8, 2016

It may be International Women’s Day, but in Alaska, women make 67 cents for every dollar a man makes. The state is 48th in the nation for wage equality, according to the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), but women make up almost half the workforce.

According to the YWCA, the gender wage gap in our state has only closed by five percent in the last 25 years. At that rate, women and men won’t be paid equally until 2142.

YWCA CEO Hilary Morgan said it’s especially troubling when you realize women are the primary breadwinners in 40 percent of households in the state.

“That’s a lot of households that are relying on a certain amount of income, that just because they’re women, they’re getting 33 cents less,” Morgan said. “It’s really frustrating. That’s why we’re starting the initiative because we’re not going to talk about it anymore. We’re going to do it.”

The YWCA set a goal of ending the gender pay gap in Alaska by 2025. Morgan said it’s not just a fairness issue — it’s also an economic one. Closing the gap means an additional billion dollars in the state’s economy every year.

“We’re educating women and girls on advocacy, self-advocacy, and we’re educating presidents, CEOs and hiring managers on how they can make their businesses better for women and pay,” she said.

Another organization is working to address inequality from an early age. The Girl Scouts of Alaska empowers girls through many programs, like their cookie sale fundraiser.

“We have one of the top financial literacy programs in the country,” said Girl Scouts product sales manager Rae Ratliff. “The cookie booths are really a small business within themselves. The have to plan setup, they have to plan schedules, they have to manage the money and manage the transactions with that.”

The goal is to teach young women business skills and confidence long before they enter the workforce.

“We can really teach young girls about having no barriers on what they really want to do and therefore no financial barriers on the money that they can earn,” Morgan said.

It’s a lesson eighth grader Kiera Peace has been learning since kindergarten, when she joined the Girl Scouts.

“We can be anything we want to be and we need to show that to people and we can do it,” she said.

Kiera said she doesn’t understand why women are paid less than men in the same job, but she won’t let workplace barriers stop her from achieving her dream of being an aerospace engineer.

“Some people are like, ‘oh, I don’t really believe that you can do that,’ and I’m like, ‘watch me,’” she said.

The YWCA is inviting local businesses and organizations to sign a pledge, supporting ending the gender pay gap in Alaska. It’s on their website.

The YWCA can also connect women who think they’re getting paid less than their male counterparts to resources to address the issue.

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