Associated Press

HELENA, Mont. (AP) _ The gender pay gap among Montana government employees is smaller than it is statewide, according to a state audit released Thursday.

Women make about 67 percent of what men earn on average across the state. The Montana Department of Administration audit shows women in state government make about 86 percent of what men earn.

“As we work to close the gender pay gap in Montana, it’s important that we lead by example and ensure that we’re working to address the pay gap in state government,” Gov. Steve Bullock said in a statement.

Bullock’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Task Force, which he created in June 2013 to identify causes and suggest solutions related to pay disparity, released the audit.

Auditors analyzed the pay of nearly 11,700 employees in state government. Employees of Montana’s university system, the Montana State Fund, elected officials, appointed staff, the legislative branch and the judicial branch were not included in the report.

Although the overall gender gap in pay was found to be 86 percent, the audit said women in the same occupation as men make 98.68 percent of the men’s salaries. Those in management positions earn on average 99.46 percent of what men earn, according to the audit.

But women tend to be underrepresented in higher-level management positions in state government, the report said. Women also are more likely than men to be underemployed, meaning they have a level of education that is higher than the level of work they do, the report said.

“This report makes it clear that one of the key ways to close the pay gap is by addressing the issue of women being underemployed in state government,” Pam Bucy, state commissioner of labor and co-chairwoman of the task force, said in a statement.

The report recommended three measures _ increasing educational opportunities for women in science, technology, engineering and math; increasing female representation in blue-collar fields; and tracking pay data over an extended period to better understand the causes of pay disparities that grow as employees age _ as ways to help close the gap.