Women…Like Men, Only Cheaper

Gender Inequality in the WorkplaceWomen have overcome many obstacles within the workplace, but unfortunately gender inequality still continues to rear its ugly head. On average, women working full-time earn just 78 cents for every dollar men earn. And this is a trend that doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon. According to a report released by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (“IWPR”), it will take until around the year 2058 for that gap to be rectified. While the gender wage gap in the US is lower than that in many other countries, the U.S. hasn’t seen any improvement since the mid-1990’s. Furthermore, while the contribution of men to household and childcare has grown significantly in recent years, it is still far below women’s’ contributions. This creates a troubling scenario for most working women in the United States, as they are expected to balance two jobs simultaneously – one in the workplace, and one at home.

The report by IWPR was based on an analysis of nation and state data focused on women’s employment and earnings in 2013. The report stated that among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, Florida will likely be the first state where women’s median annual earnings will be consistent with men’s. This is good news, but women will have to wait to celebrate such a feat until the year 2038 before they see any difference. In fact, it appears that gender equality wont reach states like Louisiana, North Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming, until the next century. In addition to earnings, the report also included state rankings, letter grades related to women’s employment, and earning based on a composite index IWPR developed in 1996.

Gender Inequality in the Workplace

In present day, women make up almost half of the workforce; in four out of ten families, women are the equal, if not main, breadwinners as compared to their male counterparts. While women typically receive more college and graduate degrees than men, yet on average, women continue to earn considerably less. This issue is the achilles heal of the U.S. labor market, and one that few companies are willing to settle.

Examples of Gender Inequality in the Workplace

To add to the stereotypical gender roles women have been trying to repair for years, women are much more likely than men to work in service occupations like personal care aides, home health aides, nursing assistants, and other roles that include a gentle touch. Although these occupations are on the rise as far as growth for the upcoming years, the median annual earnings for these jobs are less than $25,000 per year. In addition, women are less likely than men to work in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (“STEM”) occupations; jobs that are stereotypically more demanding, and meant to be fulfilled by men. According to the report, only 4.6% of women work in STEM occupations, compared to 10.3% of men.

Although the U.S. as whole needs to reconsider how it treats women in the workplace, there is a little bit of sunshine amongst the clouds. The top five states with the most employment and earning opportunities for women are Washington, D.C., Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Connecticut, respectively. Unfortunately, those women living in West Virginia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas are experiencing the least opportunities. For example, the median annual earnings for women working full-time in D.C. is approximately $60,000, compared to a mere $30,300 for women with the same job characteristics living in West Virginia. The report also states that in general, women working in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions have a better earnings composite index than women working in the South. Much of this has to do with the economy of each state; however, the gender gap widens after age 35. Women statistically go from earning about 90% of what men are paid, to roughly 75-85% after turning 35. While higher education is generally an effective tool for increasing earnings, it has not proven itself to be an effective tool against the gender wage gap.

Ultimately, the findings point to the need for companies to implement policies that can effectively increase the pace of change for women to improve within the workplace. These policies include accountability related to wages and job criteria, higher quality and affordable child care, and paid sick and maternity leave. Companies could also effectuate salary audits, which would proactively monitor and address gender-based pay differences. In addition, the Paycheck Fairness Act could do with an update, as it has not been modified since 1963. For those women seeking equality within their workplace, learning the correct strategies to better negotiate fair pay can greatly aid in the race to close the gender wage gap.

Jordan Quick

Jordan is a Law Clerk at Van Kampen Law. She was born in Sonora, California, and has lived in many places throughout the U.S., but has been living in Charlotte for the past year and a half. Jordan graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in Journalism and Business Administration.