Despite gains women have made in the workforce, the United States still has a significant gap between women’s and men’s earnings, in comparison to other prosperous countries.
In at least six other well-developed countries, the gap between men and women’s gross income was smaller than in the U.S., where the earnings of men were $63,163, compared to women’s $41,792 – a 34 percent gap. Finland, New Zealand, Sweden, Denmark, Slovenia and Israel all had lower economic gaps between genders than the United States, according to the United Nations Development Programme gender-related index.
“If progress continues at the rate it has since 1960, the wage gap will be closed in the United States overall in 2058,” said Julie Anderson, a research associate at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. “So unless there are some significant policy changes, it does not seem it will close any time soon.”
According to the United Nations Development Programme, 56.8 percent of women and 69.3 percent of men had involvement in the labor force in the U.S. The same holds true for government: In 2013, only 18 percent of Congressional seats in the U.S. were held by women, according to data from the World Bank. In 2014, the percentage for women seats increased only slightly, to 19 percent.
Anderson said the reasons why fewer women are in the workforce — and why those who are working earn less than men, even in the same job — are complex.
“In other industrialized countries, women receive paid maternity leave, which may allow them to continue their employment.” she said. “Between the inability of many women to afford to take unpaid leave and the high costs of child care, many women leave the labor force, which has negative impacts on their future earnings and contributes to the wage gap.”
In addition, she said, “There is a great deal of occupational segregation, and many traditionally-female fields are underpaid. . . When women leave the labor force or reduce their hours, even temporarily, this negatively impacts future earnings. And even though it is conventional wisdom that education leads to higher earnings, we can still see that women with a higher degree of education still receive lower pay than men with a lower degree of educational attainment.”
Women, on average, made 77 cents to every dollar men made in 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In 2013, women earned 78 cents to every dollar made by men.
In a Forbes article, Costa Rica President Laura Chinchilla, the country’s first female leader, said the most pervasive stereotype is that “women are ‘weak,’ a perception that may stem from women’s greater desire to build a consensus.”
According to writer Liz Perle, “54 percent of women have little to no money left to save for retirement once they pay their bills, rising to 62 percent among Hispanic women and 62 percent among African- American women.”
With their increased longevity, women have the potential to work longer than men do, some experts note.
In Beijing every year, on March 8, the people of Beijing recognize women’s accomplishments, challenges they face, and what women deserve. Writer Denise Oliver Velez observed: “I found it curious that it didn’t seem to be a major holiday in the U.S. …”
In March of this year, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the executive director of UN Women, said, “We call on countries to ‘step it up’ for gender equality.”
In the United States, the gap between men and women’s earnings is higher than in Beijing.
Anderson said that possible solutions to closing the gender gap in pay include: “paycheck fairness policies, paid family leave and paid sick days.”
Unless that happens, women may have a very long wait, she said.
Olivia Ursini is a student at Achievement First Amistad High School, New Haven.