GREAT FALLS — Tops in in Montana -- and #88 in the entire country – is where Great Falls ranked in a recent study of decreases in the gender pay gap over the last decade.
There’s no question that number one in Montana is impressive, but if you don’t like the sound of “88th in the United States,” consider this: according to World Population Review, there are 19,495 incorporated cities, towns and villages in the U.S. That places Great Falls in the top 0.45%. And who said math couldn’t be fun?
The question now is, why is this trend occurring?
“What it comes down to, really is the employers,” explained Soren Chargois with the Great Falls Development Authority.
“It is businesses recognizing the contributions of the women in their workplaces, and rewarding them for that, for recognizing that, despite the wonderful differences between men and women, that women are obviously offering just as much as men to the workplace, and to be recognized for that is really significant," Chargois said.
“It also comes down to the people in your office. It’s not just high level, it’s not just administrators, it’s not the supervisors, it’s your colleagues, the people you’re working with one-on-one, recognizing that this progress is something that’s positive, it’s something that’s going to spur growth, it’s something that’s going to spur success for your businesses. When women succeed, the world succeeds.”
The problem of gender inequality when it comes to pay is far from a Great Falls or a Montana problem. It’s a nationwide, even worldwide problem. On average in the United States, a woman’s annual salary comes out to around 82% of that of a man’s. Keep in mind, that’s an average. Some cities and states are far worse, while some are better.
According to a 2018 study done by the International Labor Organization and published by Business Insider, Pakistan leads all countries with a whopping 62.5% gender pay gap. In Pakistan, women account for almost 90% of wage earners in the bottom 1%.
Back to Great Falls. What exactly does all this mean for the future of the Electric City?
“It means that we can look forward to seeing a lot more female-owned, female-operated, businesses, small businesses in Downtown Great Falls,” said Chargois. “It means that Great Falls is a place where women are finding success in owning businesses, working in businesses, and being recognized for the work they’re doing.”
“The shrinking of the gender pay gap in Great Falls is just representative of all the great work that’s going on here, and I look forward to continuing seeing the decrease in that gap.”
There is hope among Great Falls Development officials that other cities in Montana will look to the city as an example and try to follow the lead in the coming months and years. That means potentially more support for small businesses, women-owned businesses, and any business that commits to recognizing and paying women what they deserve.
Despite the promising numbers, it’s clear that the work isn’t done. The goal isn’t an 18.75% gender pay gap, it’s 0%.
“As of 2018, Great Falls sat at an 18.75% gender pay gap, which means women are making approximately 22 cents less than men for every dollar,” Chargois explained. “We would love to see zero, it is possible. We are working towards it.”
“The gap that we saw just in the past eight years is significant. Let’s not take another eight years to do it, let’s do it next year. I’d love to see it happen next year. It’s possible, and it’s a realistic goal.”
The City of Missoula came in at #2 in Montana -- and #120 overall -- in the survey.
You can click here to read through LendEDU’s study, see where other cities in Montana ranked, and read other statistics about the gender pay gap.