Connecticut women earn about $13,000 a year less than men, according to new figures released by the Census Bureau.
That inequity is about $3,000 greater than the national average, but it pales in comparison to the income disparity between the sexes in Fairfield County, where the average woman with a full-time job earns almost $20,000 a year less than the average man.
Income inequality among women and men improved mildly on the state and national levels in 2011, but locally it's ballooning. In Fairfield County, the gender income gap among full-time workers widened by 17.7 percent.
Part of the reason the gap is so much wider in Fairfield County when compared to the rest of the state is the abundance of residents who work in the financial sector, where average monthly income for a woman with a full-time job in the financial or insurance industries is about $10,000, while the average male worker's monthly paycheck tops $30,000. Some experts say more of the higher paying financial jobs go to men than women because of discrimination.
"Stereotypes like, `men are better than women at math, so they're going to be better at finance' might seem pretty innocuous," said Catherine Hill, director of research at the American Association of University Women in Washington, D.C., "but they influence the gut reactions and hiring decisions of employers who are looking to fill a position."
Experts say discrimination is just one factor fueling the income divide. Another contributing factor is the feminine tendency to negotiate a raise with timidity rather than tenacity. The taboo of discussing salaries with co-workers also feeds the gap because it shrouds potential earnings inequalities among the sexes in secrecy. Women also tend to seek out lower paying jobs in education rather than more lucrative gigs in information technology.
Women were paid less than men even in fields in which they hold more of the positions, such as education and health care. Fairfield County women working in education, for example, earn about $715 less than their male counterparts each month. The county-wide monthly earnings gap between male and female workers in health care and social assistance is about $3,300.
The pay gap between men and women is more severe in highly educated communities like in Fairfield County than communities with less educated populations who are earning minimum wage. The wage gap is typically much larger among white and Asian women and men than it is for other races and ethnicities, experts said.
In Bridgeport, for example, women with full-time jobs earn $2,235 a year less than male workers in 2011, and they earned more than their male counterparts in 2010.
Experts say women can help themselves overcome wage inequality by networking, being assertive during salary negotiations and asking for a raise instead of waiting for an employer to offer them one.
"In the old days when women were just getting into the workforce, the thinking was that a women was going to get married and she was going to be taken care of and therefore she didn't need to earn as much money as a man," said Suzanne Brown Peters, director of the Fund for Women and Girls of the Fairfield County Community Foundation. "That's no longer the case, but in some ways the system is still functioning that way."