Wage gap persists for women, says new report

The wage gap between men and women has pretty much stalled — with women earning 81% of what men do — according to a new U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

While the U.S. Census recently determined that women made 77% of men’s wages, the new Labor findings are not cause for celebration, because the new findings were based on weekly wages as opposed to annual wages, which skew higher because unpaid work periods are not taken into account, explained Dana Britton, PhD, director of the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University.

While narrowing of the gender salary gap has slowed, 25-34 year olds had a 90% earnings ratio in 2012, whereas 45-54 year olds earned 75% of their male peers.

What happens in those years?

"Parenting," said Britton. "Men get a wage premium for marrying and having children," but "mothers get a wage penalty. . . In general, men’s wages go up across their lives from 25 to 65, but for women you see wages go up from 25 to 34 — and then they flat line," said Britton.

Ebony Davidson, 26, and Elan Hillard, 31, clinical service coordinators from the South Bronx, weren’t surprised by the findings. Men are considered more worthy for promotion and deserving of higher salaries because "women just don’t get the respect they deserve," said Hillard.

Davidson recounted a man being hired from outside her company for more money than she was being paid for the same position, despite her years of service and familiarity with the tasks. She finally won a bump in pay after appealing all the way up to a vice-president, but was aware she was taking a risk. A woman "can get penalized," for demanding equal treatment, said Davidson.

Davidson isn’t paranoid, said Britton. A study examining the strategies for advancement of 3,000 MBA grads showed that "even when women did the same things as men, they were less likely to be successful. When women behave like men, the results are not good. Men are perceived as go-getters," but women are perceived as unworthy and unjustifiably aggressive, said Britton.

Then there is the problem that any job defined as "female" (childcare, social service) is automatically less likely to be remunerative as one defined as "macho" (construction, pilot, etc.).

"There is good research to show that the higher the proportion of women in an occupation, the lower the wages," the sociologist continued. But what may surprise is that when men enter female dominated fields, they "earn more, advance more and are more likely to be in leadership and supervisory positions," particularly if they are white, said Britton.

When women join male fields, they are more likely to be in the lowest paid specialties. Female lawyers, for example, are more likely to be in family law or government, or serve as public defenders.

Sociologists "call that internal stratification," said Britton, who recommended raising and strengthening minimum wage laws, paid sick leave and family leave policies and fairer practices and standards to help level the field.

"Women aren’t treated equally," said Andrea Alleyne, 26, an accounts payable specialist from Midwood. "Not just in terms of pay, but in terms of respect."