Gender pay gap begins soon after graduation, study says

Associated Press

Associated Press

A new report from the American Association of University Women says college-educated women in South Dakota and the rest of the nation often make less money than their male counterparts.

South Dakota ranks 23rd in the nation for its gender wage gap. College-educated women in the state make 26 percent less than men, the report said.

“I think we’re farther behind than anywhere else,” said Mary Ann Giebink, owner of Galland Law Firm in Sioux Falls. “And what’s interesting is that many women don’t recognize it.”

Nationally, women make 80 percent of the salaries that men do one year after college, the study found. That gap widens to 69 percent 10 years after college.

Almost one-fourth of the pay gap remains unexplained even after accounting for occupation, parenthood and other factors, according to the report. The unexplained portion is “likely due to sex discrimination,” the AAUW said.

There’s still much discrimination for which no one is held accountable, Giebink said.

“Believe me, if men were trailing women, there would be an uproar,” said former state Sen. Chet Jones.

South Dakota has the remnants of a culture that does not value women as much as men, he said, adding that such thinking cannot be expelled through legislation.

“I think it’s bigger than the state. I don’t think the state can fix this,” Jones said. “This has to be fixed in the board room. The state can make sure people are not being discriminated against, but what it comes down to is the board room.”

In Minnesota, equal pay laws have been added to the state constitution, Giebink said.

“You start in the state, and you start paying people equally,” she said. “You hire qualified women and put them in positions of power. Women are capable and should be given those opportunities.”

Lower wages for women are part of a larger problem: South Dakota employers consistently pay some of the lowest wages in the nation, Jones said.

“Women that leave our state, they get paid a lot more when they leave our state,” he said. “And that’s unfortunate, because we’re losing our best and brightest.”

South Dakota is in last place for annual median income for college-educated women, according to the report. They earned a median annual income of $34,038, compared with $46,056 for men.