By Teresa Wiltz

“We need to look for ways to support women in nontraditional jobs and overcome implicit bias to make sure that women are being hired at all levels,” Nielsen said.

For women to break into male-dominated fields in the state workforce, states need to step up recruitment efforts and work to ensure that entrance exams are not biased, said Ariane Hegewisch, the program director for employment and earnings at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, which focuses on policies that affect women.

And once they’re on the job, women need to be protected from sexual harassment and discrimination, Hegewisch said. “Even if women get into these jobs, they may not decide to stay.”

Women typically need more accommodating work arrangements, such as flex-time or telecommuting, to handle family obligations. As a result, Minnesota’s Hudson said, they often gravitate to lower-paying occupations that make it easier to meet the obligations. To close the gender gap among state workers, lawmakers need to pass flex-time legislation, Hudson said. Some jobs dictate strict schedules, but state government has to be creative, he said.

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