Racial & Economic Justice

Everyone deserves to earn a living wage so they can support themselves and their families. But women, LGBTQ people, and people of color face routine barriers in the workplace that make it harder to meet these goals.

Here are some statistics:

  • In the U.S., women who work full time, year-round earn anywhere from 9% to 21% less than men
  • Bisexual people earn anywhere from 7% to 28% less than straight people
  • African Americans earn 25% less than whites, and Hispanics earn 33% less than whites in median hourly wages
  • African American and Hispanic women earn less than white women  

For every dollar that’s lost, it becomes harder to find housing, put food on the table, and pay for life-saving medicine.

At Equality Utah, we support economic policies that make work more fair for women, people of color, and LGBTQ individuals. We support policies that help reduce racial and economic disparities.

Earnings Gap for Lesbian, Gay, & Bisexual Workers  

According to the Williams Institute, there are 37,000 LGBTQ workers in Utah. LGBTQ workers make invaluable contributions to Utah’s economy. But despite these contributions, LGBTQ workers aren’t paid as much as their straight counterparts.

According to the American Sociological Review, bisexual women earn anywhere from 7% to 28% less than straight women. Bisexual men earn 11% to 19% less than straight men. In Utah alone, the median income for gay men is 20% lower than the median income for straight men.

Though we’re still a long way from achieving economic equality, Utah is seeing some successes. In 2015, Equality Utah helped pass SB296, which protects Utahns from discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity. LGBTQ people can no longer be fired simply for being who they are.

The Wage Gap in Utah 

No matter where you live, you’ve probably heard of the wage gap for women. But you may not know that the wage gap is different in each state. Here are some statistics about the national wage gap:

  • According to the U.S. Census Bureau, median earnings for U.S. women working full time, year-round are just 78% of U.S. men’s median earnings
  • A different figure puts the wage gap at 9%—even when you account for differences in experience, education level, hours worked, and industry. When all these things are equal, women still only earn 91 cents for every dollar men make

But according to Voices for Utah Children, women in Utah fare even worse than women in other states. Some researchers call Utah “the worst state for women” when it comes to wages, the number of women that hold management positions, and how many women are in the state legislature.1 Here are some stats about Utah:

  • Nationally, women need to get a Bachelor’s degree to earn as much money as men do. In Utah, women need to get a Master’s degree to earn the same amount as the average man.
  • The wage gap for moms and married women is larger in Utah than it is for women living in other states.

On average, men get a “fatherhood bonus” after having a child, but face a “motherhood penalty.” We don’t have data on parenthood penalties in Utah. But we do know that nationally, men get a raise of about 6%, while women lose about 4% of wages with each child they have. This is especially hard on moms since moms are the only or primary breadwinner in 40% of families with children, according to the Pew Research Center.

For these reasons, Equality Utah supports policies that provide paid leave time, maternity leave, and health insurance coverage. 

Bias in the Workplace

Critics often claim that women, LGBTQ individuals, and people of color choose to take jobs that pay less: these groups “self-select” into lower-paying professions. These arguments are subtle, misleading and dangerous. Many critics refuse to believe how much bias affects daily lives, whether this bias is conscious or unconscious.

Data shows that women still earn less than men even when you account for experience, hours worked, education level, and occupation.

Racism also affects job opportunities. It’s important for us to recognize how unconscious bias may limit career opportunities for disadvantaged groups.

Economic Justice Policy 

On the local level, we will continue to watch for bills that make employment more fair for all Utahns. But there’s a lot that can be done on the federal level too:

  • The Fair Pay Act would require employers to pay workers the same wages for comparable (but not identical) jobs
  • The Employment Non-discrimination Act would make it illegal for employers to discriminate based on sexual orientation

Paying for childcare costs almost as much as attending college. Our state should support affordable childcare so parents who want to work and go to school at the same time can do so.

President Trump has also promised to sign the First Amendment Defense Act. If made into law, this act will make it legal for employers to discriminate against LGBTQ people in the workplace.

We will continue to fight for fair economic policies so LGBTQ Utahns can live with the dignity they deserve.


1 Frohlich, Kent, and Hess, 2014


Additional Resources

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