Turns out the discrepancy between how much women and men earn is even worse than previously reported.
Historically, the gender wage gap numbers have been grim, and in 2017 women earned about 80 cents for every dollar a man made overall — and even less if they were a woman of color (61 cents on a dollar for black women; 53 cents on a dollar for Latina women). However, according to a new report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) released Wednesday, even these numbers fall short in capturing the true scope of the problem.
“When measured by total earnings across the most recent 15 years for all workers who worked in at least one year, women workers’ earnings were 49 percent — less than half — of men’s earnings, a wage gap of 51 percent in 2015,” the report reads.
The study, carried out by economists Heidi Hartmann and Stephen J. Rose, shows particularly harsh disadvantages for women who take time away from the labor force (for instance, to have a baby). “For those who took just one year off from work, women’s annual earnings were 39 percent lower than women who worked all 15 years between 2001 and 2015,” the report reads.
In a statement, president of IWPR and study co-author Hartmann weighs in on the report’s significance. “Much ink has been spilled debating whether the commonly cited measure of the wage gap — that women earn 80 cents for every dollar earned by a man — is an exaggeration due to occupational differences or so-called ‘women’s choices,'” says Hartmann. “But our analysis finds that we have actually been underestimating the extent of pay inequality in the labor market.”
Hartmann and Rose suggest that increasing the availability — and affordability — of child care, as well as improving access to paid leave, could work to strengthen women’s “attachment to the work force.” By finding the support they need to build a family, the authors suggest, women would be able to advance at the rate of men.
“The good news is that, over the course of the nearly 50 years covered in the study, women have seen considerable progress in the labor force by entering the workforce at higher rates and staying in the labor force for longer periods of time, which have led to higher earnings and a narrower wage gap,” Rose adds in the statement. “As progress on achieving pay equity slows, it will be important to prioritize policies that strengthen women’s labor force attachment.”
Although the news has yet to elicit reactions on social media, it is likely they’ll come from many female leaders who have been vocal about this issue. In a statement to Time magazine on Equal Pay Day (April 10 this year), CEO and co-founder of Rent the Runway Jennifer Hyman foreshadowed what’s to come. “This is not a generation that’s going to sit back and be quiet like previous generations,” said Hyman. “Unless business leaders understand the future of their employee base is not willing to accept the unequal environment that has perpetuated in the past, they’re not going to be around in the future.”
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