Governor's report highlights reasons for gender pay gap


BOZEMAN, Mont. - A new state audit shows the gender pay gap among Montana government employees is smaller than it is statewide. Here's how the numbers break down: Women make about 67 percent of what men earn on average across the state. The Montana Department of Administration audit shows women in state government make about 86 percent of what men earn.

The audit says women in the same occupation as men make almost 99 percent of the men's salaries, but women tend to be under-represented in higher-level management positions. Paige Rittersbacher is a junior at Montana State University, studying graphic design and business. She explained gender inequality in the workplace is a topic she's heard before. "I've definitely been taught that, no matter what, there is definitely a pay gap," Rittersbacher said. She explained she was considering a degree in architecture, but said she heard stories that made her change her mind. "I got a lot of comments about how it was a male-dominated field, and that my chances of success were a lot lower as a woman." NBC Montana checked Governor Steve Bullock's Montana State Government's Pay Audit to see if any of the data matched Rittersbacher's concerns. One of the reasons listed in the report is occupation, saying fewer women choose to go into math, science and technology fields. People like Deb Larson are trying to change that. "Personally, the best way I found to balance work and family, as a mom, was to start my own company," Larson explained. Larson is part of the Governor's taskforce and is working to give women the skills they need to better compete in the job market. She explained one of the ways to combat the problem of gender inequality in the workplace is to teach women how to negotiate. "Women are not comfortable negotiating their salary," she said. "We're not learning that as a skill." Larson explained that, by educating women to pursue higher paying professions and to advocate for higher salaries, everyone would benefit. "It's a win-win for women employers and women employees to create a work environment where they can be more successful, earn more, have a better quality of life in Montana," she said. The Equal Pay for Equal Work Taskforce will host an equal pay summit next April at Montana Tech in Butte.