Latest reports indicate that progress towards equal pay has stagnated.
Unequal pay based on gender has long been an unsolved problem throughout the world, including in Western nations where women are supposed to be protected as equals with men, under the law. It is among the top priority issues for women’s and human rights advocacy groups, which over the past half-century have slowly managed to make strides and narrow the income gap. Unfortunately when looking at the latest statistics in the United States, that gap still persists.
According to a new report from the American Association of University Women, in 2011 “median annual earnings in the United States for women and men working full time, year round were $37,118 and $48,202, respectively. ” That means women were earning, on average, 23% less than men. As a comparison, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, back in 1971, women were earning 40% less than men. When examining the data at the state level, Washington DC has the smallest income gap with women earning 90% of what men get, compared to Wyoming where women earn 67%.
In an effort to address critics who say this is due to personal choices, depending on what kind of career or education a women pursues, the AAUW compared men and women in relation to how long ago they graduated, their age, education, ethnicity and what kind of job they do. One year after graduating from college, women were making 82% of what men who graduated at the same time earned. Ten years after graduation the gap got even wider, with women making 67% of what men did.
Age wise, the time period where the gap was most narrow was between 20 and 34, but otherwise it becomes bigger, especially from the age of 35 to 64. In terms of education the income gap remained steady and wide for those without a high school diploma, those with one, those with some college and those with bachelor’s degrees. The only slight improvement where the income gap was smaller was among women with doctorate degrees which earn 80% of what men with the same level of education earn.
There is, however, some good news about making progress towards equal pay. Among men and women who work as pharmacists and counselors, data from 2012 indicates the same income level. Secondary school teachers and nurses have not yet reached equal pay but in both cases women earn around 91% of what men earn, a smaller gap than most any other career.
Unfortunately over the past 5 years or more very little progress has been made on the road to closing the income gap. Some hopeful signs have come from elected officials and advocacy organizations who together have proposed bills to require equal pay. Some of those bills have been successfully passed, while others are still struggling to gain approval. We may have come forward some steps since the 70’s, but there is still a lot more to go on the road to equality in the work place.