CXO Priorities

A State-by-State Look at the Gender Pay Gap

By Karen Sullivan

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Women earn less than men in every state, according to a U.S. News & World Report analysis. Perhaps not surprisingly, women in leadership are switching jobs at higher rates than men, and ambitious younger women are poised to seek better opportunities, according to a joint report from McKinsey and LeanIn.Org.

As top female employees eye the exits, savvy strategists in some companies are taking note and analyzing their pay data. A careful study of pay practices market by market gives executives insight into whether wages are a virtue or a failing in each area where a company operates.

Geographic Insight on the Pay Gap

For years, companies have used geographic information system (GIS) software to analyze workforces in locations where they plan to establish regional sales offices, specialized manufacturing facilities, and distribution centers. Now they can also use GIS-based smart maps, applications, and data analysis to quantify and compare the organization’s gender pay gap across service areas.

Once company analysts collect and map earnings data for each business location, decision-makers can compare the data to the pay gaps the Pew Research Center uncovered city by city in US census data.

In addition to issues of equity, competitive wages are critical for maintaining the health of operations, especially when women make up a large portion of the workforce or specific workgroups. Data-based comparisons can become a guide for understanding what constitutes competitive wages in various locations—and where pay practices need adjustment.

Moving from Risk to Opportunity

U.S. News & World Report‘s rankings illustrate that some states are closer to gender pay parity—and possibly better positioned to attract and retain female professionals.

The state that came closest to pay equity was Vermont, where women who worked full-time earned 91 cents for every dollar a man earned, according to 2019 data from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Others at the top of the list were Maryland (88.2 cents), California (87.5 cents), Nevada (87.2 cents), and Hawaii (86.8 cents).

Conversely, Wyoming had the widest pay gap, with women there making 63.4 cents for every dollar a man made. Utah (where women earned 69.8 cents for every dollar a man made) shared the dubious spotlight with Wyoming despite ranking first for its overall economy. Ranking just above Wyoming and Utah for their pay gaps were Louisiana (71.3 cents), Oklahoma (73.3 cents), and Alabama (74.5 cents).

Bringing Parity to the Business World

Armed with this geographic data on pay equity, accounting firms, grocers, food delivery startups, quick service restaurants, and other businesses can use GIS to map their own strengths and weaknesses—and understand whether their pay practices might hinder hiring and retention.

This type of wage analysis, combined with engagement tactics such as digital surveys for employees, can help identify locations with a risk of increased turnover or lost productivity.

As employers place more emphasis on equity and inclusion, there is room for engaging with workers in new ways to stay relevant and mindful of their concerns. GIS analysts can use smart maps to document workers’ concerns regionally and track hiring and exit patterns by market.

By regularly investigating these geographic patterns, businesses gain insights that help them reduce gender pay gaps and stay competitive in the race for top talent.

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