Written by Vanessa Harbin
As someone who considers herself to be pretty plugged in to gender issues, I have often heard the statistic about the ratio of womenís and menís earnings, and figured I knew most of the story. The past few months I have been going merrily along pursuing job leads in preparation for graduation from my masterís program next month, without even considering how I personally might be affected by the wage gap. Surely, as a young woman with a graduate degree, my salary will be right up there with my male peers, right? Since I havenít seen much difference in the jobs being pursued by and offered to my female and male classmates, isnít it a given that weíll be getting paid equally?
Then I began helping with the research at the Institute for Womenís Policy Research (IWPR) looking at trends in womenís earnings and labor force participation over the past few decades. First, I was surprised to learn that it wasnít until 1984 that college-educated women earned as much as men with a high school diploma, and it took another seven years until they earned as much as men with some college education or an associateís degree.
Then, I saw the wage gap between men and women with at least a college degreeóitís the biggest gap between men and women at any level of education. And even though the gap for all workers in my age group (age 25 to 44) is the lowest in 30 years, itís still almost 14 percent (according to IWPRís micro data analysis of the Current Population Survey). Even when women get into highly-paid and fast growing sectors like science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) fields, they are paid 14 percent less than menóa much narrower gender gap than many other professions, but a gap nonetheless.
Yet, I know that Iím extremely lucky to be where I am. Women with low education and skill levels can not only expect to earn less than their male counterparts, but often struggle to make a livable salary. Men with poor literacy skills have substantially higher earnings than women with the same abilities. And even with higher literacy levels, women still face a wage gap.
Learning the statistics has shown me that the wage gap does indeed exist and impacts womenís earningsóeven highly educated women. †It is important to be aware that the playing field might not be even and to inform policymakers about this persistent discrepancy in earnings. IWPR will be releasing an analysis of the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on the wage gap with occupations. †Our research on pay equity will be discussed at an Equal Pay Day congressional briefing April 17 organized by the Fair Pay Coalition. If you canít make the briefing, you can still stay informed on this issue by visiting our website.
This post was originally published by MomsRising.
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