Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Huffington Post, October 28, 2010, Thursday

The Huffington Post

October 28, 2010, Thursday

The Huffington Post

Extra Pennies for Women Execs: The Gender Wage Gap Decreases by Four Cents

After studying wages between the years 2000-2007, the Government Accountability Office reported that women at managerial or executive level positions of employment now make 81 cents for every dollar a man in the same position makes, a four cent increase from the stagnant 77 cents that has defined the gender wage gap. Seems like a time to celebrate, right? Not quite.

The extra four cents reflects the growth of women who are entering employment at a higher rate then most men. Unfortunately, this factor has less to do with gender equality than with economic change. During the peak of the recession in 2009, women surpassed men in employment, but this was due to layoffs being the highest among males. Four months before the end of the recession, (estimated at June 2009), men had accounted for 82% of all job losses. The job sectors within the economy that still maintained steady growth during the recession included health care, education, and government positions, all of which have traditionally hired women.

Globally, the number of employed women grew by almost 200 million in the last decade. Yet even as more women are entering the workforce and taking over as breadwinners within the household, women are still more likely to be employed part-time or hold low-wage jobs without health and unemployment insurance. In addition, men still gain more work promotions than women at executive and managerial levels of employment. Corporate heads have pointed to the amount of work output and results each employee is able to produce. Women tend to take off more time from work due to family responsibilities than men, which often leads to men being considered more for pay raises and upper level job shifts. For example, in management positions, if a woman has no children, she actually makes 83 cents on the dollar, compared to the 81 cents for mothers.

With more women trying to handle dual roles both as employees and heads of the household, this should be substantial support for closing the gender wage gap. The point is, women are entering employment more so than men, but with increased financial needs to take care of family obligations, women barely see the fruits of that labor. Sure, four cents may seem like a silver lining to equal wage advocates, but for the rest of the women in the workforce, that increase is non-existent once personal expenses have been taken into consideration. All numbers aside, how gender discrimination contributes to the gap is difficult to measure and has become an invisible exponent in looking into this issue further. Francine Blau, a Cornell University Economist who has studied the gender wage gap for the past 12 years, has speculated over claims that discrimination is no longer the basis for overall pay inequality. "I think discrimination has declined," says Blau. "But I'm not yet seeing or believing that it's been completely eliminated."

It's been over 40 years since pay equality first became a mainstream issue, and women's wages have only increased a half a penny since then? Perhaps we have arrived at a point where the majority of women are settling for the 77 cents. What do you think?

1. Women in Management A GAO Report
2. Rampell, Catherine. "As Layoffs Surge, Women May Pass Men in the Job Force". New York Times (5 February, 2009).
3. International Labor Organization. "Global Employment Trends for Women".
4. Miller, Michelle. "Marketing to Women As Employees: Are You Guilty of Gender Bias?" Wonder Branding (29, September, 2010).
5. Fitzpatrick, Laura. "Why Do Women Still Earn Less Than Men?" Time Online

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