Wall Street Wage Gaps Give Women Yet Another Reason To Occupy


Written by Sarah Seltzer

“Women who want to earn more on Wall Street than their male colleagues have one reliable option. They can set up a shoe-shine stand in Lower Manhattan.”

So concluded Bloomberg reporter Frank Bass after crunching Census data on the gender wage gap in various professions. His findings: Out of 265 major occupations, service work such as shoe shining and personal care was the only one in which women earned, on average, more than men ($1.02 to every $1). And the high-paying jobs of Wall Street had the biggest gap:

The six jobs with the largest gender gap in pay and at least 10,000 men and 10,000 women were in the Wall Street-heavy financial sector: insurance agents, managers, clerks, securities sales agents, personal advisers and other specialists.

As Louise Marie Roth, author of Selling Women Short: Gender and Money on Wall Street noted to Bloomberg, that salary discrepancy arises from secrecy surrounding bonuses and the fact that men are more likely to be in risky and rewarding positions like traders–both of which undercut the idea that Wall Street is a “meritocracy.”

To one group of women’s rights activists, the Wall Street gender gap won’t come as a surprise. They haven’t been setting up shoeshine stands near the big banks, but they have set up tents, participated in marches and even dressed up as squids (to mock Goldman Sachs’ business practices).

They are the feminists of Occupy Wall Street, a movement now resurging after a winter lull. For Ms. magazine’s latest issue, I spent several weeks trailing Occupy activists and covering feminism in the movement. I found that the white-male demographics of the 1 percent, as typified by Wall Street, were not lost on the legions of protesters who identified with feminist and womanist goals.

“If you’re going to occupy Wall Street, [you must] address the underlying patriarchy that it represents. Obviously that is a system that depends a large part on the exploitation, subjugation and control of women,” Lucinda Marshall of Occupy Patriarchy told me this winter. “That’s really why it’s so crucial for feminists to prioritize addressing this, and why feminism itself is important to the Occupy movement.”

The chance to draw the connections between Wall Street and other social justice issues like gender oppression is one that feminist Occupiers want to seize. “In the progressive movement we talk about things in silos, as though economic justice and gender justice aren’t connected. But there are all these reasons why they really are,” says Aliya Rahman of Occupy Cincinnati.

As the nationwide Occupy movement gears up for an “American Spring” to match the 2011 Arab Spring, feminist Occupiers remain active, building their own communities of resistance. Women of color lead Occupy’s anti-foreclosure movement, and Occupiers have vocally protested the “War on Women” online and in the streets.

So as the weather warms up, watch for feminist Occupiers to make the connections between patriarchy, income inequality and political disenfranchisement. In New York and other cities, activists are planning to hold more feminist-specific general assemblies (GAs) using the direct democratic format of Occupy meetings to bring occupiers as well as feminist advocates together in an organic, nonhierarchical community. Sounds like a more lasting path to equality than a shoe-shine stand.

This post was originally published by Ms. Magazine.


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Photo from zarrin maani via flickr


Yulan Lawson
Yulan Lawson5 years ago

Yes we are still fighting for equality in so many ways, times are changing and we are right there in the midst of it. We have some great women on our side out there now. No not you Hilary or Julia, I was thinking Oprah, Ellen, Lyn White, etc.

Diana Bair
Diana Bair5 years ago

IT seems WOMEN need to continue the fight in so many areas, from equal pay to health RIGHTS, vote your circumstances. Diana

Donna Hamilton
Donna Hamilton5 years ago

Noted.Thanks for posting.

Laura Elise Horvath
Laura Horvath5 years ago

ABsolutely true: in my occupation, men make 33% more than women (physician- oncology). We do the same work, and according to my patients sorry guys we do it better (the job involves lots of listening and counseling).

Arild Warud
Arild W5 years ago

Wall Street has always been a "Boy's Club".

Morgaine D.
Anna Dayton5 years ago

The occupy movement has reached my town but here we seem to have very few females. This was very informative as i know many people who are running the movement here and i hadn't a clue until now what it was about. I thought it was about government...

Heather Marvin
Heather Marvin5 years ago

Equal work equals equal pay. When I first started work in 1970 I worked for a well known insurance co in Melbourne Vic Australia. One of my work collegues was complaining about his wage and I discovered he was receiving more money than I was per hour, plus he was receiving living away from home allowance which I didn't qualify for, though I was living away from home as I had to come to the city from the country for work. I didn't qualify because I was female. Plus he was entitled to receive a home loan through the company at a very reduced amount of interest, I didn't qualify because again I was female. The reason they said the men qualified for the home loan was because more than likely he would stay on and make a career whilst the females could leave to have a family. This was not always the case and of some of the men that I knew, I stayed on longer with the company than they did! I don't know if this company has changed its rules since then some thirty years later but I sure hope so. Whether or not an employee is male or female should not be an issue it should be decided on work performance. You do the work and should be entitled to equal pay and any other benefits the company provides. This is called fair work conditions.

Jennifer C.
Past Member 5 years ago


Mari Garcia
Mari Garcia5 years ago

whats sad, is at times when i tell a woman about unequal pay they think im laying and argue with me and refuse to accept the truth. i think thats the problem, plain out ignorance. no one seems to talk about it so there are women who have no idea and actually are shocked to find out the truth and refuse to accept it

Winn Adams
Winn A5 years ago

There is no shock here. I lived and worked in the 60's where sexism was open and acceptable. It's still here but not quite as visible. Women will Never give up the fight. Women will keep speaking up. And, women will continue to make in roads by getting a good education and standing on their own two feet.