A look at the gender pay gap in Idaho

POSTED: 08:00 PM MST Nov 14, 2012    UPDATED: 09:16 PM MST Nov 14, 2012 
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho -

A recent report from Slate magazine is mapping out the states where women make the least amount of money.

Idaho, Wyoming and Utah sit at the very bottom of that list.
 
Across the country, women are making on average three-quarters of what their male counterparts make.

It's a disappointing statistic that made it's way onto a national platform this fall during the presidential election.
 
On average, women in Idaho make $0.38 less than men per dollar.

In Wyoming, that gap widens even more to $0.54.

The subject came up during last month's presidential debates.
 
"I went to my staff and I asked, 'How come all the people for these jobs are men?', and they said 'These are the people that have the qualifications.' I said 'Gosh, can't we find some women that are also qualified?'" said Mitt Romney while he answered a question about pay equity.
 
It's something President Barack Obama took steps to ensure with the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009.

"I signed this law for women like my mother. She was a single woman who paid her way through college and made huge contributions to a workforce that wasn't always fair to her," said Obama.

It appears the tides are changing for working women.

Regional economist Will Jenson points out that 20 years ago women in the Idaho Falls metro area made 46 percent of what men make. That number has now climbed to 54 percent.

It's an improvement, but a small one that leaves many frustrated.

Reporter Jessica Crandall wanted to know what working women in the region had to say, so she put up a post up on Facebook soliciting interviews
.
Few women responded and the ones who did were too nervous about losing their jobs to chime in on-camera.

Crandall then turned to Rexburg Chamber of Commerce President Donna Benfield for her opinion on why there is such a big financial difference even now.

Benfield explained that Idaho tends to fall on the tail end of trends.

"We react slower to the slow down in the economy and we react slower to the comeback in the economy. We also react slower to getting women active in professions," said Benfield.

This may contribute to what Jenson explains as not only a gap in pay, but a gap between fields.
 
"Females are attracted more to nursing type positions or administrative positions, while males are attracted to higher paying doctor and specialist type positions," said Jenson.

Demographics play a leading role as well. Idaho is very family oriented.

"Some of those family responsibilities would take women out of the workplace and into a home and kind of interrupt their career a little bit," said Jenson.

In the meantime, things appear to be equaling out slowly but surely.

"Men have been in this conservative mode and it's going to be hard to get them out of it, but we need to. We need to," said Benfield
 
Men tend to dominate the workplace.

According to the Idaho Department of Labor, two-thirds of Idaho's minimum wage workers are women.