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Women Still Earning Less Than Men

April 21, 2010

working for peanutsA significant salary gap still exists between men and women, but it is slowly narrowing.

The Wall Street Journal reports that according to a report from the U.S. Labor Department released yesterday, which was Equal Pay Day, women now earn an average of about 79 cents for every dollar that men earn. The data reflects a slight improvement from the first quarter of 2000, when women earned about 76 cents for every male dollar.

"Not only has the education gap between men and women narrowed, but labor market experience has narrowed because women have been working more and more, and more consistently," pointed out Harry Holzer, an economist at Georgetown University and the Urban Institute, who was quoted by the Journal. He speculated that part of the narrowing may be because men have been losing more jobs during the recession than women.

Indeed, a new report by the Center for American Progress indicates that mothers in every area of the country are now supporting their families, with many serving as primary breadwinners. Nevertheless, the gender gap continues to exist, which the authors say cause the typical woman to lose $431,000 in pay over a 40-year career regardless of education, occupation or location.

"The gender pay gap has taken on added importance as men have been more likely than women to lose jobs during the Great Recession," note the authors. "This loss of a man's paycheck means that millions of families now rely on a woman's job to make ends meet. The persistent gender pay gap is adding insult to injury for families already hit hard by unemployment."

Ilene Lang of the women's research group Catalyst, who recently studied MBA graduates, noted that the difference in salaries exists even when taking into account other variables.

"There are assumptions that women don't care about money, which is crazy!" Lang told National Public Radio. "There are assumptions that women will always have men who will take care of them, that women will get married, have children and drop out of the labor force. All those assumptions are just not true."

Time notes that women earned less than men in all 20 industries and 25 occupation groups surveyed by the Census Bureau in 2007, including in fields that women dominate. For example, female secretaries earn 83.4 percent as much as male ones.

Even more compelling, Time cites a University of Chicago study which examined wage disparity for people who underwent sex change operations: On the average, men who became women earned nearly a third less after their surgery, while women who transitioned to men earned 1.5 percent more.

New legislation aims to close the pay gap between men and women: Last year, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, making it easier to file charges against employers for salary discrimination. And new legislation currently in Congress, the Paycheck Fairness Act, would make it easier to prove gender discrimination and would toughen penalties.


Compiled by Yaffa Klugerman

Sources:

"Despite New Law, Gender Salary Gap Exists," National Public Radio, April 19, 2010, Jennifer Ludden

"Families Can't Afford the Gender Wage Gap," Center for American Progress, April 20, 2010, Heather Boushey, Jessica Arons, Lauren Smith

"US Women Still Earn Less Than Men, But Gap Is Narrowing," The Wall Street Journal, April 21, 2010, Ruth Mantell

"Why Do Women Still Earn Less Than Men?" Time, April 20, 2010, Laura Fitzpatrick

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