Photo by Sharon McCuthcheon on Unsplash

South Carolina has among the most severe gender pay gaps in America, ranking 40th among the 50 states in a new study. According to data from the Business.org study, the average annual salary in S.C. for women is $37,584 while men average $48,541 — a nearly $11,000 difference resulting in a pay gap of 23%.

S.C. sits on the list between Montana and Mississippi, but our northern neighbor North Carolina ranked 7th in the nation with a gap of 14%.

Vermont reportedly has the smallest gap at 9% followed by Hawaii and Maryland with 11%. The study also found there is not a single state in which women have a higher average salary then men.

Even with a growing number of equal pay initiatives and more women-owned businesses opening across the country, the national gap still averages 18%.

Source: Business.org

What’s causing the inequality?

A number of factors can impact states’ pay gaps from discriminatory hiring processes with little legal ramifications to differing regional views on traditional gender roles.

Though the pay gap in S.C. may be one of the largest in the country, the number of female-owned businesses is growing in the Palmetto State. Another study from 2018 found that S.C. ranked 4th for states with the fastest growing rate of women-owned businesses.

Between 2007-2018, women-owned businesses across the country increased by 58%. While more opportunities have been given to women in the past couple decades, not enough has been done to level the playing field.

The pandemic has made career opportunities even tougher for women, with many economists speculating that the last year exacerbate the gender pay gap. According to the National Women’s Law Center, all of the jobs lost in December 2020 nationwide belonged to women. The economy netted 140,000 jobs that month — women lost 156,000 jobs, while men gained 16,000.

The Business.org study also reported that the pay gap has plateaued since 2010, as the national average has hovered between 18-19% for more than a decade.

To shrink the gap, Business.org suggests a cultural change is necessary, a shift in the way we think of men and women in the workplace. Promoting and hiring qualified women to higher-level positions (managers, directors, executives, etc.), supporting female business owners in our communities and demanding equal pay policies at the corporate and government level are all important steps to achieving equality.