Here's the gender pay gap in the COVID age

U.S. Department of Labor releases new data revealing how much less money women make, on average, than men

Here's the gender pay gap in the COVID age

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently released new data about the gender wage gap in what it currently refers to as “the most comprehensive analysis to date.”

In a 2020 study conducted by the Women’s Bureau with the U.S. Census Bureau, new data reveals that the “majority of the gap between men and women’s wages cannot be explained through measurable differences between workers, such as age, education, industry or work hours.”

A DOL post from experts and collaborators Sarah Jane Glynn and Diana Boesch said that it is “highly likely” that at least some of this unmeasured portion is the “result of discrimination, but it is impossible to capture exactly in a statistical model.”

Glynn is a senior advisor with the Women’s Bureau, while Boesch is a policy advisor in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy. “Most of us know that women are sometimes paid less than their male colleagues. But what you may not know is just how much the difference adds up,” they said.

The gender pay gap is defined as the calculation that reflects that, on average, women are paid less than men.

2020 data showed that when comparing the median wages of women who worked full-time, year-round to the wages of men who worked full-time, year-round: 

  • All women were paid, on average, 83% of what men were paid. Or put another way, women were paid 83 cents to every dollar paid to men.  
  • Many women of color were paid even less. For example, Black women were paid 64%, and Hispanic women (of any race) were paid 57% of what white non-Hispanic men were paid. 

Read more: Financial wellness should be part of your DEI initiative

The pair further discussed that with the portion of the wage gap “that can be explained,” the biggest factor is the “types of jobs that women are more likely to have than men,” which “tend to pay less.”

They refer to it as “industry and occupational segregation.” It’s where women are “overrepresented in certain jobs and industries and underrepresented in others – leads to lower pay for women and contributes to the wage gap for several interrelated reasons,” they said.

That women are “most likely to work” in jobs that pay lower wages

The pair discussed that the gap could partly be attributed to the likelihood that women could be found in jobs that pay lower wages overall than jobs where the majority of the men are found. These jobs include childcare workers, domestic workers and home health aides.

“And while it does not contribute directly to the wage gap, women-dominated jobs also are less likely to include benefits like employer-provided health insurance and retirement plans compared to occupations dominated by men,” they said.

That even in female-dominated jobs, women are still paid less

The pair explained that even in female-dominated jobs, they are paid less than men for the same role and duties, saying that women generally have no “earnings advantage.”

“When comparing more than 300 detailed occupations, there are none where women have an earnings advantage over men, but hundreds where men have significantly higher earnings than women,” they said.

Women’s labor is “so devalued”

And finally, the pair discussed that the average pay for an occupation reportedly decreases when women “start to enter a field in large numbers,” noting that “women’s labor is so devalued.”

“Occupations that employ a larger share of women pay lower wages even after accounting for characteristics of the workers and job, such as education, skills and experience,” they said.

Efforts to close the gap

To “close the gap,” the pair highlighted that addressing occupational and industrial segregation is essential, adding that discrimination and other factors that “drive down women, especially women of color’s pay,” should be examined.

“This will require supporting women entering male-dominated fields, raising wages and job quality across all sectors and especially in women-dominated jobs, and ensuring racial and gender equity in all jobs including in the high growth fields creating the jobs of the future,” they said.

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