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Women in the Economy Commission opening for business
Workforce » Panel will focus on poverty, services, lower wages.
First Published Aug 01 2014 10:45 am • Last Updated Aug 02 2014 07:45 pm

The Women in the Economy Commission will hold its first meeting Monday to consider the challenges — such as low wages — faced by women in the Utah workforce.

Earlier this year, the state Legislature created the 11-member panel to increase public awareness of women’s impact on the state’s economy. The legislation, HB90, also charged the commission with coordinating public agencies and private groups that provide services to women, as well as conducting research on issues related to women in the economy.

At a glance

Commission debuts

The newly created Women in the Utah Economy Commission will hold its first meeting Monday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Seagull Room of the Senate Building, north of the state Capitol.

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The 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. meeting is slated for the Seagull Room in the Senate Building, north of the State Capitol.

A recent study by the National Women’s Law Center found that Utah women were twice as likely as men to work low-wage jobs. According to the report, women make up 44.4 percent of the Utah workforce, but hold 65 percent of its low-wage jobs.

Another study by the Institute of Women’s Policy Research, a non-partisan Washington, D.C.-based organization, found that Utah has a significant gender gap when it comes to income.

In 2012, the median income for women working full time was $33,100 compared to $48,000 for men, according to the study.

From 2010 to 2012, 37.2 percent of Utah families headed by single women with children lived below the poverty line, the study revealed, compared to 20.2 percent for single men with children.

The chief sponsor of the bill that created the Women in the Economy Commission, Rep. Jennifer Seelig, D-Salt Lake City, said: "Women don’t choose to be paid less."

But women, more often than men, have to balance work with rearing children, meaning they may leave and re-enter the workforce, often with little advancement, she said.

Seelig added that because women are the child bearers, they also are less likely than their male counterparts to earn advanced degrees or training. But even when they do, she said, it doesn’t necessarily translate into better jobs.

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