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The WAGE Project is working to debunk a popular myth amongst women.
"There are a lot of them who don't believe the wage gap exists anymore," says Annie Houle, national director of campus and community initiatives for The WAGE Project, a non-profit organization established in 2005 to end discrimination against women in the workplace. "But it does."
And the gap is wider in Wyoming than in any other state in America.
In an effort to empower and educate women, the University of Wyoming Women's Studies program and Center for Advising and Career Services are partnering with the Wyoming Women's Foundation (WyWF) to sponsor a series of statewide workshops in March and April.
The series begins Friday, March 28, on the UW campus and continues Saturday, March 29, with a statewide video conference. Workshops are also scheduled for Monday, March 31, at Casper College; Tuesday, April 1, at Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne; and Wednesday, April 2, at Northwest College in Powell. The workshops are free and open to the public.
The goal of the workshop is to help women gain perspective and understanding of benchmarks in the salary process and to strengthen their negotiation skills. To register, go to the Web site at outreach.uwyo.edu/conferences/conflist.aspx.
"If we can reach young women at the beginning of their careers and have an impact, then we might see a change (in the wage gap,)" says Houle, who will represent The WAGE Project at the Wyoming workshop series. "For women my age, this is good stuff for us to learn but it's not going to impact the number as much as getting to younger women and saying, ‘Look, there is a wage gap, this is how it happens, this is why it happens and this is what you can do to eliminate it.'"
According to The WAGE Project, women nationally earn 77 cents to each $1 earned by a man. That number is significantly lower in Wyoming, where women receive just 55 cents on the dollar, according to a January 2008 study by the Wyoming Department of Employment.
The states nearest Wyoming, according to The WAGE Project data, are West Virginia (68 cents to a dollar), Louisiana and Utah (69 cents) and Michigan, Montana and North Dakota (70 cents).
"We're way at the bottom, and that needs to change," says Richelle Keinath, WyWF executive director.
Marianne Kamp, UW Women's Studies Program director and workshop series coordinator, believes the outreach effort will help women across the state to improve their own earnings prospects.
But, she adds, America must resolve structural and societal problems that are largely responsible for the wage gap to create gender equity.
In Wyoming, for example, jobs that predominantly employ men, such as mining and construction, tend to pay average to above-average wages, while jobs that employ women, such as teaching and nursing, tend to pay below-average wages.
"There are major structural and societal reasons for the wage gap. It's not that women don't negotiate, but that's part of it," Kamp says. "In studies that have been done in the past few years, it's been shown that women enter employment situations more timidly and without the same assertion as men. And often women seem to want to please and they assume that the way they're going to get hired is to be pleasing and not throwing up obstacles like, ‘No, you should pay me more than that.'"
She adds, "That's why these workshops are so important. Any project that empowers women is one way to help them bring their salaries up."
For more information on the workshop series, call Kamp at (307) 766-5103 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call Keinath at (307) 721-8300 or e-mail email@example.com. To learn more about The WAGE Project, go to the Web site at www.wageproject.org.