Contrary to Gerald Gay’s recent comments, Wyoming’s gender wage gap is not caused by the hardworking women of Wyoming taking too many sick days or not being dependable. As a Wyoming woman, I would like to inform Rep. Gay of the real state of our gender wage gap so that he might rethink labeling Wyoming women as lazy.

If trends continue, our state will not close the gap until 2159. Women in our state earn 67.9 cents to a man’s dollar, and as of now Saudi Arabia is on track to close its wage gap before we do.

One reason for this troubling trend is the large part the energy industry plays in Wyoming, as it is primarily male dominated.  Efforts have been made to employ some women by this high paying industry, but the physical requirements of many of these jobs as well as work schedules that make child care arduous, make these efforts difficult.

Often, critics of the gender pay gap cite increasing education among women as a simple solution to the issue. Yet this is clearly not working in Wyoming. Statistically, our college educated women earn less than men with only a high school diploma, according to a report published in the Casper Star Tribune.

While encouraging women to seek degrees in science and engineering is important, it cannot be the sole focus of addressing our wage gap.

One solution is better compensation for careers that women dominate, such as education and health care. This would contribute to closing this gap, and these are investments into critical areas of Wyoming’s economy that we ought to be making anyway.

Moreover, many women are working in minimum wage jobs in Wyoming.  Our low minimum wage keeps the gap high. Stronger equal paying jobs and higher minimum wages could help close the pay gap, and evidence shows that raising the minimum wage can boost a state’s economy.  People who make more money, spend more money.

Either way, we need to continue to have a dialogue about this issue in Wyoming, particularly given the current state of the Wyoming economy. We cannot afford to simply write this issue off as a byproduct of inevitable gender differences, as my opponent Gerald Gay does. This is both offensive to Wyoming women and unproductive.

Instead, this campaign will focus on making Wyoming women as prosperous as their male counterparts. We hope you’ll join us.