Monday, March 1, 2010

Women Yesterday and Today 1: The Wage Gap

March is Women's History month. So I am going to be devoting a good portion of my blogging this month to a series I'm calling: Women Yesterday and Today. To start off the series, I thought I would highlight a few statistics that are very troubling.

Women are now 50% of the workforce. On average women earn 77 cents to every dollar earned by men. Just one year (!) out of college, women already earn less than their male colleagues earn, even when they work in the same field with the same degree. At ages 66 and older women are twice (!) as likely as men to be poor. It has taken 40 years (!) to begin to close the wage gap by a meager 12 cents.

What is really alarming is just how much the wage gap widens the older women get. One year after graduation, women average 80% of the salary their male counterparts are earning. Ten years later they are earning 69% of the salary of their male counterparts. Even when researchers control for all the known factors that can affect earnings (hours, occupation, parenthood, etc.) their research shows that one-quarter of the pay gap remains unexplained. Over time, this unexplained portion of the pay gap grows larger and larger.

The AAUW has an interactive map HERE where you can hover over any state and find out the wage gap stats closer to home. It is sad to view these stats. Among college grads, women in Texas are earning 70% of what their male counterparts are earning. In my home state Michigan, it is even worse: 68%.

Last year, President Obama began to work on this problem by signing into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The second part of this legislation has been stalled in the Senate, but it will finally receive its hearing. On March 11, the Senate will hold a hearing on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which is an update of the 46-year old Equal Pay Act. If you want to read more about this legislation or if you want to send your senators a letter to support this legislation, go HERE (AAUW website page). They have set up the website so that it is very easy to create and send your message, either via email or on letterhead. It took me two minutes.

I will come back to this topic again since April 20th is Equal Pay Day. And HERE are some pay equity ideas for action for that day if you want to make the problem more visible around your local area.

All stats are taken from AAUW.


Chris said...

Nice blog.

Judy Redman said...

I wonder how much of this is the "glass ceiling" effect rather than unequal pay for doing the same work? Not only are there a higher number of men than women in senior positions in organisations, it is also more usual, I think, for women to be in senior positions in less prestigious universities/companies which therefore pay less. For example, in Australia, there are 8 universities (out of 37) that are more prestigious and pay their Vice Chancellors (the CEOs) significantly more than the other universities pay. None of them has ever had a female VC. Women VCs in Australia would be earning not much more than half the annual salary of the VCs in the Group of 8 universities.

Pastor Bob said...

Judy I am sorry to say that the Church follows in lock step with society. In those denominations that ordain women (like mine, the Presbyterian Church (USA) it is VERY difficult for a woman to become pastor of a large, prestigious congregation. And of course with size and prestige goes salary. A lot of our smaller congregations wouldn't have pastors if it weren't for women. After all, they don't have to support families like men do, do they? (For those enraged by the last comment that was not me speaking but an actual Pastor Nominating Committee member from an actual congregation. Scary, isn't it?)

Judy Redman said...


This is not so much the case in my denomination where very few placements pay more than the minimum stipend determined by the Synod (roughly state, but not quite). I think, however, that there are more women than men in part time placements, either because they have child care responsibilities or because their husbands have jobs that mean that they are unable to relocate to somewhere that needs a full time minister. While there are some men who are prepared to move for their wife's calling (my husband included) it is far more usual that a ministers' wife will move with her husband's calling and a minister's husband's job will determine where his wife can accept a call.

ee said...


Pastor Bob said...


A friend of mine (a pastor) moved because his wife (not a pastor) got a better job. The congregation, or at least some members, went into shock. "The pastor had a calling and the wife didn't" the ones who talked to me said. An interesting perspective given that we Calvinists believe all occupations, the legal and moral ones, are callings.

I'm not sure that congregational members would think the same if the wife was the pastor and the husband wasn't.

Jane said...

Avril thanks for this post. Sexism is alive and well in most institutions and countries ... currently the organisation i work for doesn't have a single woman in a top leadership role ... A great shame. Fortunately I think that will change again but it is so hard to go on battling on these issues.

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