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You’ve probably heard that men are paid more than women are paid over their lifetimes. But what does that mean? Are women paid less because they choose lower-paying jobs? Is it because more women work part time than men do? Or is it because women have more care giving responsibilities?


AAUW’s The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap succinctly addresses these issues by going beyond the widely reported 79 percent statistic. The report explains the pay gap in the United States; how it affects women of all ages, races, and education levels; and what you can do to close


The Pay Gap

Over the past century, American women have made tremendous strides in increasing their labor market experience and their skills. Today, women account for 47 percent of the labor force and they hold 49.3 percent of jobs (women are more likely to hold two or more jobs and they are less likely to be self-employed). Women’s share of the labor force has been rising for more than 50 years and is continuing to increase. Today more households than ever have a woman as the primary or equal breadwinner in the household.


On Equal Pay Day, however, we focus on a stubborn and troubling fact: Despite women’s gains a large gender pay gap still exists. In 2013, the median woman working full- time all year earned 78 percent of what the median man working full-time all year earned. Phrased differently, she earned 78 cents for every dollar he did. Although this gap generally narrowed between the 1970s and 1990s, it has largely stopped narrowing and has remained between 76 and 78 cents since 2001.


The Compensation Gap

The pay gap goes beyond wages and is even greater when we look at workers’ full compensation packages. Compensation includes not just wages, but also employer-sponsored health and retirement benefits, training opportunities, flexible work arrangements, and paid family and sick leave.


Women are less likely to have an offer of health insurance from their employer. Overall, women are also less likely to have retirement savings plans, however this gender gap is concentrated among lower income women. Prime-age women with college degrees are about as likely as their male counterparts to be covered by their employer’s pension plan, while less-educated women are less likely to have an employer-based retirement plan.