New research by the National Partnership for Women and Families puts Seattle at the top of the list for the widest gender wage gap among the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas. That means Seattle women working full-time, year-round make a smaller proportion of men’s earnings than in any other metropolitan area in the country – just 73 cents for every dollar earned by men.
Women in neighboring metropolitan areas fare better, with those in Portland earning 79 cents per dollar paid to men and those in San Francisco earning 84 cents per dollar. Further, the West Coast is home to the smallest wage gap, where women in Los Angeles earn 92 cents for every dollar paid to men.
This gap means $16,000 less in annual wages for Seattle’s women and their families. For each of the nearly 142,000 households in Seattle that are headed by a woman, that equals over two years worth of food, 16 months of rent or more than 4,300 gallons of gas. Nearly a quarter of those households fall below the poverty level – a rate that would surely be reduced with a narrowing of the wage gap.
So what gives? A major factor in the discrepancy in earnings between Seattle’s men and women is the gender gap in our industries. Notably, more than a fifth of Seattle’s full-time jobs are in the information and tech industries – which are some of the highest paying industries Seattle has to offer. In both sectors, men dominate 60% of the jobs and women earn just 75% of men’s median annual income.
Even among industries where women are predominate, namely education and health sectors, full-time female earners take home just 82% men’s pay – and nearly $17,000 less per year at the median than those women in high-paying sectors dominated by men.
There are several industries in which women’s income nearly matches that of their male counterparts. Agriculture and utilities, where men hold 70% of jobs, make up only 1% of Seattle’s full-time jobs and put just 690 women on a level playing field. Another example, company management, which is only slightly predominated by men and pays very well, employs just 280 women. Thus, despite several industries that do offer equal pay in Seattle, these opportunities are open to fewer than 1,000 women working full-time.
The Seattle area fares well on larger measures of economic success. For example, King county holds an unemployment rate of 5.6%, significantly lower than the rates of 7.5% statewide and 7.7% nationwide. Unfortunately, the rewards of that success are more often enjoyed by men, despite the growing number of families that rely on women’s earnings.