Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal
Carly Zapata is a Santa Fe public schools teacher who recently completed her master’s degree at St. John’s College.
While Zapata, 33, stands to earn more money with an advanced degree, women in New Mexico with those credentials are earning a lot less than men at a similar education level, according to Census estimates released last month.
In New Mexico, men with a graduate or professional degree are seeing median earnings of $73,053. Women at the same level, on the other hand, earn a median $51,275.
“I just finished my master’s degree, so that was shocking to me,” said Zapata, who teaches English at Nina Otero Community School in Santa Fe. “I feel like I actually cost myself money.”
The fact that men with similar qualifications, on average, make more money “really irks me every time I think about it,” she said.
Overall, women who work full-time in New Mexico are earning about 82 percent of what men are paid, according to American Community Survey estimates for 2016. That’s better than the gender gap nationwide, in which women make 80.3 percent of what men are paid.
One factor is that women tend to dominate occupations that are lower-paying, such as health care and education, said Jim Peach, New Mexico State University economist. At the other end, the oil and gas industry tends to be high-paying in New Mexico, and 85 percent of those jobs are held by men, he said.
But, he said of the wage disparity, “even when you look at these other issues, it’s hard to explain except that there is still discrimination in the labor market.”
The American Community Survey estimates, released on Sept. 15, show median earnings in New Mexico for both men and women are lower than for the United States as a whole.
Full-time female workers in the state earn a median of about $35,000, compared to $41,000 for their counterparts across the United States. Median means half earned lower and half earned higher than that amount.
For men, the figures are about $42,000 in New Mexico and $51,000 nationwide.
The lower figures across the board, and the continuing pay disparity between men and women, are reflections of the tough road the state has faced trying to climb out of the recession, said Lee Reynis, a research professor of economics at the University of New Mexico.
“Our economy has really been at the bottom in terms of performance,” said Reynis, who formerly headed UNM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research. “These numbers are just one reflection of that.”
The largest percentage of full-time male workers in New Mexico earn between $35,000 and $49,999. The largest percentage of female workers fall in the $15,000 to $24,999 slot.
Women earn at least $7,500 on average less than men no matter what their education level, but the wage gap is especially wide for those who hold bachelor’s degrees and higher.
However, Lisa Kuuttila, president and CEO of Science and Technology Corp., sees hope that things will get better for women.
“One of the predictors of future success for women is there’s a higher percentage of women in college,” said Kuuttila, who is in charge of UNM’s tech transfer office. “We’ll just have more women in the workforce in general … so when people look to hire, they’re going to see more qualified women to choose from.
“I think it will go a long way toward erasing the gender gap we have.”