BUTTE – Sheila Hogan, a native of Butte, was raised by a single mother after her father was killed working in the mines.
She came from a family of strong, can-do women.
Now in a state leadership position and co-chairwoman of Gov. Steve Bullock’s Equal Work Task Force, Hogan knows better than anyone that the wage gap between women and men doing the same job must be narrowed.
“It’s really unconscionable that women make 33 percent less than their male counterparts,” said Hogan, state Department of Administration director and a 1975 Butte High School graduate. “Although pay discrimination has been illegal in Montana, it still happens.”
Hogan, along with Pam Bucy, commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry, team-tagged a task force update for a civic-minded Butte-Silver Bow Burros lunch crowd at Butte Country Club earlier this week.
They are on a mission to narrow the wage gap between men and women who work in the same jobs.
Montana women workers still earn only 67 percent of what men are paid in the same job. In annual salaries, for example, that amounts to $19,614 for women compared to men at $29,250 for doing the same duties.
Those numbers persist despite the fact that there 37,454 households in Montana are headed by women, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families. About 33 percent, or 12,173, of those households have incomes that fall below the poverty level.
Still, employers need to accept the fact that some women want to do nontraditional jobs like driving truck or plumbing, said Hogan.
“When there’s more money in that household, it raises that family out of poverty,” Hogan added.
Hogan, executive director of the nonprofit Career Training Institute in Helena for 20 years prior to her state duties, brings special insight and experience into private and public work conditions.
She and the task force aim to study the breadth, causes and consequences of the wage gap by age, sector, education level and location.
Private for-profit workers experience the greatest pay inequity, as full-time women workers earn only 66 percent of what their male counterparts earn.
Bucy said that in state government, 51 percent of employees are women, but most of the highest-paying administrator jobs are held by men.
If the wage gap were eliminated, the National Partnership for Women and Families reports that a working woman in Montana would then have enough money for about 76 more weeks of food (1.5 years’ worth); eight more months of mortgage and utility payments; 16 more months of rent; or 3,145 additional gallons of gas.
The good news is that women are slowly gaining more leadership positions that sometimes come with better pay. Women like Hogan and Bucy comprise 75 percent of Bullock’s personal staff.
Yet, 50 years after President John F. Kennedy signed into law the Equal Pay Act, American women earn, on average, only 77 percent of what their male counterparts earn.
But Hogan and Bucy represent a pocket of women who are gaining ground in the multifaceted issue of pay and work equity.
“We want to show the governor that Montana is ready to close the wage gap,” said Bucy, a Townsend and Helena native married to Butte native Mark Piskolich.