Sponsored: Bridging Utah’s gender pay disparity through digital access

A Bolder Way Forward, Wage Gap Spoke Leaders: Katie Witt, Deneiva Knight, Rachel Cottam

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Utah has long been known for its stunning natural beauty and friendly communities. However, it also holds a less enviable ranking as one of the states with the largest gender wage gaps in the nation. This disparity affects not only women’s personal lives but also their professional opportunities, economic stability, and overall well-being.

The current state of the gender pay gap

According to recent statistics, full-time working women in Utah earn approximately 70% of what their male counterparts do. This figure is significantly lower than the national average, where women earn about 81% of men’s earnings. The ramifications of this gap are far-reaching and especially detrimental for the 40% of families in Utah that have a female head of household.

This is why Rachel Cottam, Deneiva Knight, and Katie Witt have joined with Utah Women and Leadership Project’s “A Bolder Way Forward” to lead the Gender Pay Gap Spoke. Under Dr. and Professor Susan Madsen’s leadership, the primary aim of A Bolder Way Forward is to be a vehicle of change for Utah women and girls.

The reasons behind this pay gap are multifaceted,” said Rachel Cottam, Bolder Way Forward Gender Pay Gap Spoke Leader. “It’s not just about women being paid less for doing the exact same job as men. Often, it’s a result of women being underrepresented in higher-paying roles and industries.”

One step to correct that is the “Return Utah” program, the first public return-to-work initiative in the country, designed to fill state jobs by recruiting candidates who are looking to re-enter the workforce following an extended career break.

“Return Utah isn’t just a program, it’s a lifeline to those who’ve had to step away from their careers. It’s an affirmation that your life experience matters,” said Lt. Governor Deidre M. Henderson. “We’re tearing down barriers and creating opportunities because when we connect Utahns to resources and training, we uplift not just individuals, but our whole state. This is more than just a return-to-work strategy, it’s a commitment to our state’s entire workforce. I am a testament to the power of returning to work after a career break, and I’m proud to champion Return Utah as a pathway to a brighter future.”

Digital technology pathways

The Gender Pay Gap spoke focuses on substantially narrowing the gender pay gap in the state of Utah by 2030. Spoke Leaders understand access to digital technologies is a critical vehicle of change for Utah women and girls. 

Digital technologies enable women to learn new tech skills to support advancing or changing careers, increases access to online resources like financial literacy and education, and supports online networking to amplify women-centered grassroots initiatives.  

“We believe that Digital Technology Pathways—internet access, adoption, and know-how—can be a powerful tool in closing the gender pay gap,” said Deneiva Knight, External Affairs Director, Comcast Mountain West Region, and Bolder Way Forward Gender Pay Gap Spoke Leader. “That’s why Comcast launched Project Up, to actively support organizations that equip women in Utah with digital skills, providing them with the tools they need to navigate today’s increasingly digital world.”“Together, we ensure women are aware of low-cost and free in-home, high-speed internet options through Comcast’s Internet Essentials program and the Federal Government’s Affordable Connectivity Program.”

Utahns gather during a Gender Wage Gap Spoke Kick-off Meeting at the Comcast Office in Sandy, Utah in August 2023.

Solutions: Digital access and more

Addressing the gender pay gap requires a multi-pronged approach best centered around three Digital Technology Pathways:

  1. Breaking Down Barriers: Allow women to break down barriers and access educational opportunities. As we know, education empowers women to acquire new skills, start businesses, and participate in the global economy, thereby increasing their earning potential for themselves and their families. 
  2. Amplifying Women’s Voices: Give women a platform to share their stories and experiences, influencing policy and advocacy efforts related to wage equality. By engaging in conversations about the gender pay gap, women can collectively push for change.
  3. Increasing Earning Potential: Create opportunities to increase earning potential to better support their families.

These pathways not only support women’s economic empowerment but also contribute to the overall economic health of our communities.

A call to action

The gender pay gap is more than just a statistic; it’s a tangible barrier affecting countless women across Utah. But with concerted effort and collaboration, this gap can be bridged.

“Closing the gender pay gap in Utah is not just a responsibility; it’s an imperative,” said Katie Witt, Bolder Way Forward Gender Wage Gap Spoke Leader. “It’s about empowering women to earn additional income, increasing their employment opportunities, and fostering knowledge and general information access. It’s about breaking down barriers and creating opportunities for women to start businesses and participate in the global economy.”

“Comcast’s commitment to addressing this issue serves as a model for how companies can take meaningful steps toward closing the gender pay gap, not just in Utah but across the nation,” said Knight.

Gender Pay Gap Spoke Leaders invite businesses, policymakers, and individuals to work together to ensure that everyone, regardless of gender, has an equal opportunity to thrive in Utah. Email [email protected] to join this effort.