We're sure that you all spent two days of the early summer - maybe the first two days that the weather had cleared and the snow had subsided - either in the lecture hall at CWC in Riverton or glued to the Wyoming PBS livestream of the kick-off interim meeting of Joint Labor/Health.
What? No? You went outside and lived your lives instead? Smart thinking. So here's the recap on issues we (and hopefully you) care most about.
As noted, several discussions were about professions that are between 86% and 97% female and about the wages in those professions and skilled worker shortages in those professions. You're thinking to yourself: What a great opportunity to thoroughly interrogate Wyoming's gender wage gap! What an opportune time to discuss the self-sufficiency standard! How exciting that they're going to dig into supporting training for skilled female workers the way they do for skilled male workers!
And you would be right: It was a perfect moment for all of those discussions!
But you would be wrong if you thought that they had them.
While we're thrilled when anyone in Wyoming's workforce goes from working only a few hours a year (300 or less in most cases they described) to nearly full- or full-time and improves their income from sub-$10k to more than $40k, we want some context for the figures being bandied about. More specifically, we want to know - and we *really* want our legislators to know - what those incomes mean relative to things like:
Wyoming's median income
Federal Poverty Level
The Family Economic Self-Sufficiency Standard
When you layer this in, you start to understand the implications of depressed wages in caregiving professions - traditionally dominated by women. In Sheridan County in 2016, the self-sufficiency standard for one adult and one preschooler was $42,531. That outstrips a lot of the wages that the Legislators heard about in testimony. That means that a single mom, working full-time, and raising a child is still struggling to get by. And that is a reminder exactly *why* it matters that Wyoming's wages for men are 12th in the nation while wages for women don't even come close to approaching that level. The gender wage gap relegates women to economic insecurity.
So we're asking you: Remind your Legislators - especially if your elected officials serve on Labor/Health - that context matters. Point out that the Wyoming Women's Foundation has exceptional resources to help all of us think about these issues in a more informed and nuanced way. Raise your voice to let them know that you are paying attention and they can *no longer* dismiss gender as an essential component of these policy discussions.
The gender wage gap is real. (Say it with us, now.) The gender wage gap is real.
Now let's go change that.