Wage gap for women persists in New Hampshire

Despite a political gender gap that helped create the all-women leadership at the top echelons of power in New Hampshire, the gender gap when it comes to wages is nowhere near as beneficial to women in the state.

"When it comes to gender equality, New Hampshire is behind the nation, except when it comes to political leadership," said Mary Johanna Brown, the chair of the Women's Initiative, which ranked gender pay equity as among the top three issues to be tackled this year.

Women in New Hampshire earned 77 percent of what men took home in median full-time pay, according to the latest analysis of Census data by the American Association of University Women — roughly the same percentage as the nation.

Officially, New Hampshire ranked 33rd out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, with D.C. having the smallest gap. There, women receive 90 percent of what men make.

New Hampshire is one of eight states at 77 percent, including Massachusetts, which is ranked at 37th. The Boston Globe touted the Massachusetts gap as "among the biggest in the country" and the largest in New England. By that measure, New Hampshire is a close second for the largest New England gender wage gap.

Women in Wyoming fared worst, earning 67 percent of a man's wage, followed by Louisiana and Utah.

But pay equity has increased in New Hampshire since 2009. Then, women earned 74 percent of men's wages — the 10th worst figure in the nation. In 2010, the state ranked 24th, with 78 percent.

Brown said that she prefers to look at the real gender gap, which compares comparable wages, as opposed to median wages. The gap seems to lessen, when measured that way.

For instance, women's median wages were 71 percent of men's wages for the same work in 2008, said Brown. But women earned 77 percent of comparable men's wages that year. (Both figures were below the national average.) So, the 2011 comparable wage would probably be higher than 77 percent as well.

While things seem to be improving, Brown said, the rate of that improvement has slowed down. Brown cites three major reasons for continuing pay inequality: discrimination; responsibilities of motherhood; and women's difficulty in negotiating for a pay raise.

New Hampshire lags behind the nation in other measures of economic equality as well. Although 58 percent of women have a four-year college degree, the median annual earnings of female college graduate was down to 68.7 percent of a man's in 2008 — the 10th worst in the nation. And the number of women-owned businesses in the state was 25.8 percent in 2007, behind the national average of 2007, Brown said.

However, all is not bleak for women in New Hampshire. The state got national coverage for the November election of an all-female congressional delegation to the U.S. House and Senate, in addition the state's second female governor as well as a woman speaker of the House.

"Political leadership is one area where we shine," Brown said.

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