Kristi Allen photo
Permanent Commission on the Status of Women Director Carolyn Treiss (Kristi Allen photo)

Connecticut women have made impressive gains in the in the workforce in the past 15 years, but there are still deep disparities that need to be addressed, Permanent Commission on the Status of Women Director Carolyn Treiss said Wednesday.

A report released by the group ranked Connecticut 5th nationally in women’s median earnings and showed that women in the state have closed the wage gap by almost 10 percent since 1998.

However, Treiss stressed that there were areas for improvement.

“The report indicates that the gap has narrowed, but women in Connecticut overall only make 78 percent of men’s earnings,” she said. The wage gap in Connecticut is slightly larger than the national average, although women in Connecticut make more than almost every other state. 

Treiss said that the report showed that wage discrimination still exists and that the income gap isn’t solely a product of different career choices. 

“The wage gap exists not only because, as we often hear, women tend to segregate in lower-paying occupations . . . The data shows the gap exists within those higher paying occupations,” Treiss said, citing women surgeons, physicians, and financial managers, who make on average only half the compensation of their male counterparts.

Minority women also faced much larger disparities in income than white women and the gains in employment and wages were heavily stratified by region.

“There are clearly chronic and sustained problems that need to be addressed,” said Treiss.

In order to address these issues the PCSW plans to push for expansion of paid family medical leave in the upcoming legislative session. Currently, about half the workforce has access to family medical leave under both state and federal law, but very few employers offer paid family medical leave. More than 60 percent of women work in Connecticut, which is 5 percent higher than the national average.

“In Connecticut, we have a very strong history of enacting state policies that acknowledge the different experiences of women in the workplace,” Treiss said. “We still have a lot of work to do.”

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro said that the report was confirmation of “what women across Connecticut already know: we face extraordinary and disproportionate economic challenges in our society.” She called upon the legislature to expand paid family medical leave and access to education.

The report provided an in-depth look at the state of women in the workforce by region, ethnicity, and occupation.

Female chief executives had the highest average salary of any occupation at $139,000 and made 90 percent of what men in the same position made. On the opposite end of the spectrum, female retail workers made just $32,000. No occupational group of men made less than $40,000.

African-American and Hispanic women had higher incomes in Connecticut than nationally, but the disparity between their earnings and those of white women was higher in Connecticut. They also experienced higher rates of unemployment, however, women from every ethnic group showed lower rates of unemployment than men.

In terms of educational attainment, men and women in Connecticut were very close. Nearly 38 percent of men held a bachelor’s degree, just 1 percent higher than the rate for women. There were vast disparities in educational attainment by race. Fifty-eight percent of Asians had at least a bachelor’s degree while only 15 percent of Hispanics had reached the same level.

Overall, women in the wealthiest areas of Connecticut earned more than any other group, but they had the lowest rate of labor force participation and highest wage gap, making only 50 percent of what men made in the same area.

The study was conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.