Gender, Employment and the Economy
The male/female earnings gap -
What is the earnings gap? When we talk of comparing women's earnings with men's earnings, we find that no matter how we measure them, women's earnings are below those received by men. In 97% of the occupations for which data is available, women's median weekly earnings are less than men's earnings. Very often men's earnings are used as the "yardstick" to measure women's and we say women's earnings are a percentage of men's. The earnings gap is the difference between this percentage ratio and 100%.
How large is the earnings gap?
In 1997 for those receiving hourly wages, women's median hourly earnings were 80.8 percent of men's
For full-time wage and salary workers, women's median weekly earnings were 74.4% of men's.
In 1996 median annual earnings for women reached peak levels at 73.8% of men's annual earnings.
Why the difference among measures? Hourly earnings do not differentiate whether or not the individual worked full-time or year-round. It should be noted that women are employed fewer hours in the week and fewer weeks in the year than their male counterparts. Less time at work contributes to a part of the earning difference when women's weekly and annual earnings are compared with men's.
The narrowing of the gap in previous years was the result not of women's wages rising, but of men's real wages falling so that they were closer to women's wages. (Prior to 1993 - when the wage gap was 77%)
1997 - wage gap was 74.8% - attributed to changes in welfare policy.
1998 - wage gap was 76% - attributed to increase in the minimum wage.
When we look the 45-year period as a whole, women's real earnings have increased by 1.2% each year while men's earnings have grown by only .9 %.
Of course, race and ethnicity are important intervening variables. In 1997 African Americans earned 77% of what Whites earn, while Hispanic Americans earned only 67.6% of what whites earn.
Gender and race - compound the wage difference.
African American women earned 84.5% of what white women earned, whereas Hispanic American women earned just 71.6 percent of what white women earn.
For African American and Hispanic American men, the wage gap relative to white men is 72.6% and 62.4% respectively.
Explaining the Wage Gap
What reasons have been suggested for the differences in earnings between women and men?
Often discrimination has been suggested as a major reason for the differences in earnings between women and men. Others have suggested that women choose certain occupations so that they can balance work and family obligations. "Crowding" of women into a few jobs results in such an abundant supply of women workers in these jobs that wages are depressed. Some argue that the wage gap is not a problem. It is a matter of women making different choices in life.
One consistent observation that can be made is that female-dominated occupations usually pay significantly less than male-dominated occupations.
Dual Labor Market - characterized by one set of jobs employing almost exclusively men and another set of jobs typically viewed as secondary, employing almost exclusively women.
Recent research indicates, in fact, those occupational segregation alone accounts for about 20 to 40% of the difference in men's and women's earnings.
Occupational sex segregation refers to the degree to which men and women are concentrated in occupations in which workers of one sex predominate. A commonly used measure of occupational sex segregation is the dissimilarity index, also called the segregation index and sometimes simply D. Its value is reported as a percentage that tells us the proportion of workers of one sex that would have to change to jobs in which members of their sex are underrepresented in order for the occupational distribution between the sexes to be fully balanced.
Historically, women have "crowded" into a few occupations. In 1997 the six most prevalent occupations for
Women were, in order of magnitude, schoolteachers (except post-secondary teachers), secretaries, cashiers,
Managers and administrators, registered nurses, and sales supervisors and proprietors. In 1997 about one-fourth of all women workers were employed in these occupations.
Industry sex segregation - a form of occupational sex segregation in which women and men hold the same job title in a particular field or industry, but actually perform different jobs. For example - waiters in an upscale restaurant vs. waiters in a diner.
Establishment sex segregation occurs when women and men hold the same job title at an individual
establishment or company, but actually do different jobs. Again, women's jobs are usually lower paying and less prestigious. For instance, it is not uncommon in a law firm for women to be concentrated in the family law division, while men dominate the more lucrative corporate and commercial law department.
Occupational resegregation -
Sex-integrated occupations become resegregated with members of one sex replaced by members of the opposite sex as the predominant workers.
Labor market segmentation, a term that refers to the division of jobs into categories with distinct working
conditions. Economists generally distinguish two subcategories, which they call the primary and secondary sectors.
The first includes high-wage jobs that provide good benefits, job security, and opportunities for
advancement. The upper level of this sector includes elite jobs that require long years of training and certification and offer autonomy on the job and a chance to advance up the corporate ladder. Access to upper level jobs is by way of family connections, wealth, talent, education and governmental programs (like the GI bill, which guaranteed higher education to veterans returning form World War II). The lower level includes those manufacturing jobs that offer relatively high wages and job security (as a result of unionization), but do not require advance training or degrees.
The secondary sector includes low-wage jobs with few fringe benefits and little opportunity for advancement. Turnover is high in both levels of this sector because these workers have relatively few marketable skills and are easily replaced. For decades, the majority of women of all racial -ethnic groups, along with most men of color were found in the secondary sectors.
While most jobs fall into these two sectors, during the economic crisis a third sector began to grow rapidly. This known as the informal sector, or the underground economy.
It has been argued that women choose these occupations because there tends to be less skill obsolescence for workers who leave and reenter the labor force. It has also been argued that the educational commitment for employment in these fields is less than in some others, and workers can have more time at home for other responsibilities.
Human capital theory - explains occupational sex segregation in terms of women's free choice to work in jobs that make few demands on workers and require low personal investment in training or skills acquisition based on the assumption that women's primary responsibility is in the home.
Many employers, economists, and public policy makers acknowledge that "women's work" almost always pays less than "men's work," but they maintain that the reason particular jobs have become female-dominated is because large numbers of women have freely chosen to enter them. Central to their argument is the assumption that women's primary allegiance is to home and family; thus, they seek undemanding jobs that require little personal investment in training or skills acquisition so that they can better tend to their household responsibilities. In other words, women choose to invest less than men in employment outside the home do, so they get less in return. This explanation is called human capital theory.
What other factors besides occupational choice affect the earnings gap?
It has been suggested also, that seniority within the firm and in the job have much to do with earnings of American workers. If this is the case, then the work experience of the two groups will have an impact on the earnings ratio of women to men.
1987 - Survey of income and program participation showed that for men only 1.6% of all potential work-years were spent away from work while for women workers, 14.7% of all potential work-years were spent away from paid work.
Jacobsen and Levin found that when women re-enter the labor market, their earnings are much lower than those of a comparable group of women who did not leave the labor market are. Over time that difference diminishes, but never disappears, even after as long as 20 years. One possible interpretation is that even after many years, employer's view gaps as a signal that the individual is not as dedicated a worker as a woman who did not leave the work force. This view may be reflected in reduced promotion possibilities, different job assignments, and other actions by employers that reduce wages.
There may be other factors that are difficult to measure that also affect women's career decisions. To what extent have women been denied the opportunity to find employment in other occupations? Have they been fearful of entering occupations where few women are employed because of lack of knowledge about the field, or fear that sexual harassment may be a factor? These are aspects that are difficult to quantify.
Gupta reported that research results indicate that sex differences in occupations are due both to differences in preferences and to differences in employer selection. It should be remembered that occupational segregation has been disappearing; there are far fewer "women's job and fewer "men's" jobs than in earlier periods.
What about sex discrimination>/B>. Sex discrimination still exists in the American workplace, but the magnitude of its effect on the earnings gap is hard to measure. Statistical studies have successfully attempted to measure the effects on the male-female earnings differential of several factors. Employee characteristics, such as occupation, education and experience, have been examined using statistical techniques to assess the impact each has on women's and men's earnings.
2 to 3 million dollars a year has been awarded each year between 1992 and 1997 to those winning cases filed with the EEOC.
Glass Ceiling- refers to the invisible barriers that limit workers' - typically women workers' and racial and ethnic minority workers' - upward occupational mobility.
"Shortchanged: Restructuring Women's Work"
Teresa Amott explains how the economic crisis of the 1980s and 1990s has affected the labor patterns and opportunities for women, particularly women of color. By focusing on the "feminization" of the workforce, capital flight, union busting, and homework, Amott explores the contradictory nature of women gaining employment without gaining economic advantage. The economic crisis has had different effects on men and women.
Manufacturing jobs have been most affected by capital flight. The overall result was that even though women lost jobs to capital flight and corporate downsizing, they did so at a slower rate than men. While manufacturing jobs were feminizing in that they were going to women in developing countries, the rapidly expanding service sector was also hiring women I larger and larger numbers - both women entering the labor market for the first time and women displaced from manufacturing. A large part of this service sector growth took place in what were already predominantly female jobs, such as nurses' aides, child care workers, sales.
The underemployed are those who are working part-time but would prefer full-time work, those who are so
discourage that they have given up looking for wok, and those who want a job but can't work because home responsibilities - such as caring for children or aged parents - or other reasons keep them out of the labor force. If we look at underemployment rather than unemployment, the rankings change: in contrast to the official unemployment rates, the underemployment rates are higher for women than for men.
During the 1980s, the female labor force grew by over 10 million. Most of the new entrants found traditionally female jobs in secondary, sector service and administrative support occupations, since that is where the majority of job growth took place However some women made inroads into traditionally male jobs in the highly paid primary sectors, and these gains are likely to be maintained. In addition graduate degrees who how women are increasingly willing to prepare themselves for male-dominated occupations. There has been an occupational "trickle down" effect, as white women improved their occupational status by moving into male-dominated professions such as law and medicine. While African American women moved into the female-dominated jobs such as social work and teaching, vacated by white women.
The wage gap narrowed but partly because men's wages fell. The gap between men's and women's rates of
unionization and access to fringe benefits fell, but again partly because men's rates fell.
More women entered the workforce, but they also worked long hours than ever before, held multiple jobs and sought work in the in the informal economy in order to maintain their standard of living. Finally women's gains were not evenly distributed: highly educated women moved even further ahead of their less-educated counterparts.
All this took place against a backdrop of rising family responsibilities. The most serious stress faced by married women…was associated with the reduced standard of living their families faced as a result of the cutbacks.
Legislation for Equality in the Workplace
Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act - forbids discrimination in hiring, benefits, and other personnel decisions (such as promotions or layoffs) on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, or religion, by employers of fifteen or more employees.
Title VII has been implemented and enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Executive Order 11246 (Affirmative Action) - applies to employers who hold contracts with the federal government. It states that employers may be fined or their contracts may be terminated or they may be barred from future contracts if discrimination is found. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance in the Department of Labor monitors compliance.
Equal Pay Act of 1963 - The Equal Pay Act prohibits employers from paying employees of one sex more than employees of the opposite sex when these employees are engaged in work that requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility and that is performed under similar working conditions.
Comparable worth- equal pay for different jobs of similar value in terms of factors such as skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions.