UTAH (ABC4) – For four years in a row, Utah has ranked dead last in a study assessing women’s equality in all 50 states. When the report – which is produced and distributed annually by WalletHub – was re-published this year in August, it sparked disappointment among the local community who were shocked at the consistently low rankings of the Hive State.
“In general, all of these issues, like the wage gap or sexual assault, are problems all over the world,” says Susan Madsen, director of the Utah Women & Leadership Project (UWLP) at Utah State University. “However, what we do know is that like the wage gap in Utah it’s even more.”
The UWLP released a white paper earlier this month that examined the WalletHub study and provided recommendations on how to move Utah forward. Today, a new UWLP study sheds a deeper and increasingly personal light on gender inequality in Utah.
In May and June 2020, Madsen and her team collected 1,115 responses to a survey on sexist comments and are publishing them as part of a five-part report designed to shed light on the experiences of women in Utah. The survey, which Madsen says is the first of its kind, allowed the women to include specific comments they received, ultimately adding up to 1,750 unique scenarios that were documented.
“Some of them just tell us about this often invisible layer of things that are happening,” Madsen said of the survey responses.
In order to glean the most information from the data, the research team kept track of the comments, who said them, the responses, and how the responses were received. The most recent part of the study focuses specifically on inequality and prejudice, which Madsen says has strong implications and provides insight into the large gender pay gap in Utah.
Women in Utah earn about 70% of what men earn, which is the second worst in the country, according to a 2021 study.
Even still, Madsen says she is receiving comments alleging that the gender pay gap does not exist and that women are making choices that ultimately lead them to lower paying fields.
“What we do know is that the wage gap is really complex and it’s influenced by the choices women make, but when you take all of those things out, there’s always discrimination,” he says. she.
The fourth category of the study focuses specifically on pay, promotions and gender hiring inequalities. A woman recounts her experience: “I was told, ‘He got a raise even though you have the same qualifications because he has a family to support.’ “
“It’s not a choice, it’s not a myth, it’s pure discrimination,” Madsen replies.
Discrimination in the workplace can also have other effects that lead to the perpetuation of the gender pay gap, Madsen says.
She references a quote in the unconscious bias section of the study that reads: “A man at my workplace said, ‘I mean this as a compliment, but you don’t. see like an engineer.
“What we know from this is that if this man is on a hiring committee he’s going to have all of these biases and he’s probably going to hire someone who looks like an engineer, unless he doesn’t have a lot of training on unconscious bias, ”says Madsen.
When women feel discriminated against, it can also cause them to withdraw from their jobs and take less interest in the job because they feel that their skills, experience and expertise are not valued.
And women who face frequent sexism – which Madsen says occurs more often in male-dominated fields like STEM – are also more likely to find other work at a new company. In fact, she said many survey respondents chose to quit their jobs and find new opportunities in response to the gender discrimination they experienced in the workplace.
“It’s not just the comments, it’s the behavior that accompanies them, it’s the culture that accompanies them, that affects women’s choices to join or leave the company,” says Madsen.
Some other common responses to sexist comments were to use humor – which Madsen says can be incredibly helpful in educating in a non-confrontational way – to address the comment directly, or at times, say nothing.
“Sometimes women don’t feel comfortable for a number of reasons,” she says. “One is, it’s really not sure, but a lot of times, as women, we’re so shocked or just don’t know the best thing to say or what options we have.”
Madsen hopes this report can offer women new options. Ideally, she says, the study can impact workplaces and other community groups by raising awareness, facilitating discussions and perhaps in the future helping in the development of a new tool. .
“My dream would actually be to launch an app where women can be in the middle of the meeting and get a comment and look for really good answers so that they feel empowered,” says Madsen.