Why Women Still Earn Less Than Men

Why Women Still Earn Less Than Men – Brief Article

Victor D. Infante

Superficially, it appears that the gap between men’s and women’s incomes has closed considerably since the equal rights movement of the 1960s. But has it? A new report by the Economic Policy Institute hints otherwise.

Despite decades of activism in the area of women’s rights, and mountains of legislation against sexual discrimination, women are still earning–on average–79 cents for every dollar earned by men. Statistics provided by the AFL-CIO reveal that, in 65 job categories, female employees do not earn the same or more money in any single field. The discrepancies range from the small, $28 a week for bookkeepers and accountants, to the pronounced, $323 a week in the advertising industry.

Critics such as Anita U. Hattiangadi, author of Raising Productivity and Real Wages Through Gainsharing (Employment Policy Foundation, 1998), attempt to explain away pay discrepancies by claiming that figures such as the AFL-CIO’s include women who have lost job time and experience due to extended maternity leave. “There is no gender pay gap for full-time workers age 21-35 living alone, and the gender pay gap is under 3 percent for full-time workers age 21-35 without children,” Hattiangadi says.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, notes that only 5.1 percent of all women in the workforce take more than a week off for any reason-including maternity leave-beyond regular vacation time. This is not significantly more than the 3.3 percent of men who do the same, and seems an inadequate justification for the disparities.

According to Net Working: Work Patterns and Workforce Policies for the New Media Industry (Economic Policy Institute, 2001), female Internet workers in New York City are earning, on average, $10,000 less a year than their male counterparts. Rosemary Batt, an assistant professor of human resource studies at Cornell University and a co-author of the study, finds the discrepancy troublesome. “Along gender lines, the new economy does not seem to be very different from the old economy,” she says.

Net Working illustrates further flaws. In a usual corollary to the maternity-leave argument, critics such as Hattiangadi have tried to further disparage statistics showing gender-based pay disparities by indicating that they’re also skewed by attempts to compare people in different fields, and of different ages and geographic locations.

In Net Working, a tight control group of working professionals are examined. They all live in New York City, and most are under the age of 40. The workers are evenly numbered along gender lines, and only half are married and/or have dependents. On average, each professional works 53 hours a week and spends 13.5 hours of time in unpaid training.

The study finds that the women had fewer skills and less access to learning tools and software. Conversely, women have been entering college in greater numbers than men since 1996, and graduating in roughly equal numbers since the early 1980s, according to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even though gender disparities do not appear in college enrollment or grades, they are continuing in the workplace.

“For the purposes of our study,” Batt says, “we don’t have the capacity to know why that gap exists.”

COPYRIGHT 2001 ACC Communications Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group