Colorado’s Wage Gap

Colorado's Gender Wage Gap | GLOW Magazine Summer 2016

Equal Pay in Colorado Would Grow the State’s Economy by $9.2 billion

The Women’s Foundation of Colorado (WFCO) continues to be the only community foundation in the state dedicated to the economic self-sufficiency of women, girls and their families. WFCO builds resources — including research, advocacy, grantmaking and leadership development — to create systemic change for women and girls.

In late 2015, The Women’s Foundation of Colorado supported two research endeavors to understand the greatest obstacles and opportunities for women and girls in Colorado.

WFCO funded the report “The Self-Sufficiency Standard for Colorado 2015,” by the Colorado Center on Law & Policy, which analyzes how much income Colorado families in each of the state’s 64 counties must earn to meet basic needs without public assistance. The Self-Sufficiency Standard takes into account housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, taxes and more.

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The report determined that in Eagle County a single parent with a preschooler and school-aged child must earn $28.58 per hour, or $60,363 annually, to make ends meet, which is 300 percent higher than the federal poverty level.

“In Vail Valley, we know that almost 10 percent of women live at the poverty level, but there are so many more who cannot even meet their families’ basic needs, let alone save for the future or put money away for emergencies,” says Lauren Y. Casteel, president and CEO of The Women’s Foundation. “Knowing what it actually costs for women and their families to be economically self-sufficient is critical in guiding our public policy, advocacy, and grantmaking endeavors.”

The research was shared with managers of workforce training programs, nonprofits, policymakers, legislators and the media as a platform to discuss wage adequacy and policy effectiveness.

Additionally, WFCO published and shared with the same audiences “The Economic Status of Women in Colorado” in partnership with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR).

The research found that if women in Colorado earned the same as comparable men, the poverty rate for all working women would be cut in half and the state economy would grow by an additional $9.2 billion, or 3.0 percent of the state’s 2014 GDP. Yet, equal pay remains elusive: if progress continues at the current rate, the state’s gender wage gap will not close until the year 2057. Currently, the gender earnings ratio in Colorado is 80.0 percent, yet Hispanic women earn just 54 percent of white men’s earnings, while black women in the state earn just 65.5 percent of white men’s earnings.

“The findings in this briefing paper are a call to action for Coloradoans,” says Casteel. “Accelerating all women’s progress is not only key to improving the well-being of women, children, families and communities, it is critical for improving the economy for everyone in Colorado. We can confidently say that pay equity is not a women’s issue, it’s everyone’s issue.”

More promising, “The Economic Status of Women in Colorado” research found that Colorado ranked fourth in the nation for the percent of women with at least a bachelor’s degree, at 37.5 percent, compared with 29.7 percent in the United States overall. Between 2001 and 2013, the proportion of all employed women in managerial or professional occupations — jobs that mostly require at least a college degree and offer opportunities for higher earnings for women — increased by 6.2 percentage points, from 36.4 percent to 42.6 percent.

In addition to research and using it to guide the Foundation’s public policy efforts, WFCO focuses on grantmaking. In December 2015, WFCO announced grants totaling $802,000 to nonprofits statewide, including Bright Future Foundation, The Youth Foundation, Walking Mountains Science Center and The Cycle Effect in Vail Valley.

To support The Women’s Foundation of Colorado in helping every woman and girl in Colorado reach her full potential, or to attend the annual Vail Valley luncheon on August 3rd, visit

When Colorado achieves pay equity, 50% less working women will be living in poverty and $9.2 billion will be added to the state’s economy


The Self-Sufficiency Standard

By the Colorado Center on Law and Policy

The Self-Sufficiency Standard calculates the income required for a family to meet basic needs without public or private assistance in each of Colorado’s 64 counties. The Standard increased about 53% on average across Colorado between 2001-2015. For more information, visit

Self-Sufficiency Wage $69,740

» One parent, two children, Summit County

Self-Sufficiency Wage $60,363

» One parent, two children, Eagle County

Self Sufficiency Wage $57,409

» One parent, two children, Denver County

Poverty Income Level $20,090

» Family of three, federal guideline

Full-Time Minimum Wage $17,118

» $8.23 per hour, Colorado guideline

“In Vail Valley, we know that almost 10 percent of women live at the poverty level, but there are so many more who cannot even meet their families’ basic needs.” Lauren Y. Casteel

»by Lisa Christie

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