August 26, 2010
Today, August 26, 2010, marks the 90th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. Thanks to increased participation in our political system, in 1984 Geraldine Ferraro became the first woman nominated to a national ticket. In honor of these historic moments, the Joint Economic Committee (JEC) released a report that analyzed how increased political power has changed women's economic conditions. According to the report, women have made significant strides in the past 25 years, but several challenges still remain.
"This report shows that as women have gained political power, they've gained economic strength," said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Chair of the JEC, in a press release. "Women work more, earn more, and are more educated than they were 25 years ago. But, women still earn less than men."
The Hill reported that in 2009, women made up 49.8 percent of the workforce, compared to 44 percent in 1984. In the last 25 years, women's labor force participation has grown even more. In 1984, 53.6 percent of women were in the labor force. By 2009, that number had grown to 59.2 percent. Furthermore, according to the report, women have gained a presence in more industries. In 1984, women made up half or more of the workforce in government, education and health services, and financial activities. In 2009, women made up 50 percent or more of the workforce in five industries: government, leisure and hospitality, education and health services, financial activities, and other services.
The press release also noted that women now surpass men in educational attainment. In 2009, 87 percent of women had at least four years of high school education, compared to 86 percent of men. In contrast, 74 percent of men and 73 percent of women had at least four years of high school education in 1984. According to the figures provided in the report, educational attainment through the years has wavered slightly for men since the late 1990s, whereas educational attainment for women has remained relatively steady.
The JEC found that women's income plays an increasingly important role in the economic stability of families as households are more dependent on wives' wages than in previous years. Between 1983 and 2008, married couples with a working wife saw average annual income growth of 1.12 percent, while married couples with a stay-at-home wife experienced a decline of 0.22 percent per year.
Despite these gains, however, women's pay still lags. In 1984, the average full-time weekly wage for women was 68 percent of men's full-time weekly wage. In 2009, that average went up to 80 percent. Full-time working women only earn 80 cents for every dollar earned by the full-time working man. Moreover, On The Issues Magazine pointed out that women without children earn 90 percent of men's wages, illustrating that motherhood is still a significant barrier. Women still work more hours in the home than men do, but this type of work is not considered "as crucial for sustaining a productive economy as paid work is", argued the magazine. Indeed, Congresswoman Maloney acknowledged the imbalance in the press release saying, "Women still shoulder most of the burden of care-giving responsibilities at home but families are still dependent on working wives' incomes to make ends meet."
According to The Hill, the JEC report is the first in a series of reports and hearings that will be held by the JEC this fall to provide a comprehensive overview of women's economic situation and to highlight additional work that needs to be done to achieve economic equality.
Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin
"Gender Pay Gap Underestimates Economic Inequality," ontheissuesmagazine.com, August 19, 2010, Joan Williams
"New JEC Report Highlights Economic Progress Made by Women in Past 25 Years," jec.senate.gov, August 25, 2010
"Report: Women have made economic strides, still face challenges," thehill.com, August 25, 2010, Vicki Needham
"Women and the Economy 2010: 25 Years of Progress But Challenges Remain," jec.senate.gov, August 2010, U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee