New Campaign Aims to Close the $18,400 Gender Pay Gap in Washington

Andrea Anderson, CEO of Girl Scouts of Western Washington, addresses the crowd at the Activate 3.8 launch on Friday at Seattle’s Nectar Lounge. (Washington State Women’s Commission Photo)

Working women in Washington earn on average $18,400 less per year than men. That disparity puts the state in 49th place nationally for gender pay equity, just outranking Utah, according to a study released in March.

Leaders in the state are eager to shrink that pay gap, and on Friday they launched the Activate 3.8 campaign — named after Washington’s 3.8 million women and girls — to tackle the problem.

The Washington State Women’s Commission is leading the initiative and hosted a public event at Seattle’s Nectar Lounge to kick it off. About 160 attendees showed up for a slate of speakers that included Gov. Jay Inslee; Grace Yoo, executive director of the commission; April Sims, president of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO WA; and others.

Activate 3.8 is taking a multifaceted approach to raising awareness about pay inequities and efforts to correct them, including:

  • A tour of 10 cities in partnership with Girl Scouts organizations and others to promote careers in tech, aerospace, construction, and trades, and STEM.
  • Support for organizations that provide workforce development training, and efforts to raise the visibility of resources for women seeking career opportunities.
  • Work on policies that help women in the workplace, including access to childcare, reproductive healthcare, and workplace harassment services.
  • Promoting the Women on Corporate Boards Act, which requires 25% of public company board members to be women.

“There’s no one fix,” said Yoo. “We have to tackle the whole ecosystem and lifecycle together.”

Speakers and attendees of the Activate 3.8 event, from left: Gov. Jay Inslee; First Spouse Trudi Inslee; Lekha Fernandes, executive director of the Office for Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises; Grace Yoo, executive director of the Washington State Women’s Commission; Veronica Bronkema, Washington State Employees Credit Union board chair; Cami Feek, Employment Security Department commissioner; Andrea Anderson, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Western Washington; and April Sims, president of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO WA. (Washington State Women’s Commission)

The effort doesn’t have precise goals or set timelines, but aims to move Washington from the bottom 10 states for gender wage inequities to the top 10, Yoo said.

Inslee noted in his remarks that Washington has, in fact, passed policies in recent years that support women in the workplace. The governor called the state’s paid family leave program the best in the nation, and referenced policies providing higher wages for childcare workers.

With the upcoming presidential election on the minds of many, he also spoke to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision two years ago revoking abortion protections and its impact on working women.

“A woman needs to have her right of choice respected so that she can pursue a career if she makes that individual decision,” Inslee said. “As you know, unfortunately, a woman’s right to choice is under attack.”

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The government-funded Washington State Women’s Commission points to multiple factors that drive the wage disparity in Washington.

While tech and aerospace bolster the state’s economy, those jobs, and particularly the higher paying roles in those fields are, often male-dominated. Many of the trade jobs in the state, such as construction, manufacturing, and other manual work, require specific safety gear that is not designed to fit women, the commission says.

Washington’s top two tech giants annually disclose demographic data on their employees’ pay and who fills leadership roles.

T-shirts emblazoned with “Half the State” were on offer at the Activate 3.8 launch. (GeekWire Photo / Lisa Stiffler)

In 2023, women working for Amazon in the U.S. earned 99.9 cents to the $1 earned by a male employee performing the same job.

At Microsoft, women in the U.S. with the same job title, level, and comparable tenure earned $1.007 to their male counterparts’ $1.

Both companies, however, have more men than women in higher-paying leadership roles.

“In tech, there are more and more women entering the industry, but what roles are they filling?” Yoo said. “If you’re an HR specialist within a tech company, versus a programmer or a C-suite executive, pay will be varied vastly.”

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