The lobbying efforts of a group of Utah teens paid off recently when the Utah state legislature passed House Bill 81 (HB 81), which authorizes a pay equity study. Susan Sparrow, a 17-year-old, organized 19 other young lobbyists, and together they pushed for a bill that allowed for a study of differences between salaries of male and female state employees, according to Women’s ENews. Sparrow believes the study will become a significant step in closing the Utah gender pay gap, according to a Mt. Holyoke College press release.
In the United States, women working full-time earn only 73 cents for every dollar earned by men. When isolated by race, minority women earn much less. Women in Utah earn only 66 cents for every dollar a man earns, making Utah the second worst state for pay equity, according to Mt. Holyoke College. “Utah is a particularly bad place for women in politics. I felt sick of seeing that, and I wanted to do something to change that,” Susan Sparrow told Women’s ENews.
Sparrow started the campaign about three months ago after returning from Mount Holyoke College’s Take the Lead Program. Take the Lead is a leadership program for “idealistic, action-orientated young women who want to make a positive difference in the world,” according to the College Press Release. The group of teens who went by the acronym POWER-Up (Politics Open to Women for Equal Representation) took on the lobbying efforts even after two similar attempts by adult supporters had failed, according to Women’s ENews. “I had some doubts when I first heard these were high school girls who were coming to work on this bill. But these girls, as soon as they hit the Capitol steps, they were hard at work. I had never seen anything like it,” said Rep. Ty McCartney (D-Salt Lake), sponsor of HB 81, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. The study is only the first step for Sparrow; next year POWER-Up is hoping to enact a measure that would require fiscal authorization, Women’s ENews reported.