December 11, 2013 in Business

Young women’s pay equalizing, Pew study finds

Hope Yen Associated Press
 
Benefit of education

The near-equal pay for young women is being driven in large part by their educational gains. Some 38 percent of women ages 25-32 now hold bachelor’s degrees, compared to 31 percent of young men.

WASHINGTON – Young American women are increasingly likely to receive pay nearly equal to their male counterparts, with earnings at 93 percent of men, a new study finds. Still, those women remain as pessimistic as their mothers and grandmothers regarding gender equality.

A report for release Wednesday by the Pew Research Center paints a mixed picture.

While women under 32 now have higher rates of college completion than men that age, the analysis of census and labor data shows their hourly earnings will slip further behind by the women’s mid-30s, if the experience of the past three decades is a guide.

That widening gap is due in part to the many women who take time off or reduce their hours to start families. Other factors cited in the report are gender stereotyping, discrimination, weaker professional networks and women’s hesitancy to aggressively push for raises and promotions, which together may account for 20 to 40 percent of the pay gap.

In all, 75 percent of women ages 18-32 say the U.S. needs to do more to bring about equality in the workplace, a percentage similar to baby boomer women ages 49-67 and higher than other age groups. Some 57 percent of young men answered that way.

Even so, just 15 percent of young women say they have been discriminated against because of their gender.

“Today’s generation of young women is entering the labor force near parity with men in terms of earnings and extremely well prepared in terms of their educational attainment,” said Kim Parker, associate director with the Pew Social & Demographic Trends Project. “They feel empowered in many ways, yet when they look at the workplace, they see it as a ‘man’s world’ with the deck stacked against them.”

“They think that men earn more than women for doing the same job and that it’s easier for men to get top executive jobs than it is for women,” she said.

Women are increasingly moving into higher career positions both in government and business. They make up nearly half the workforce, and the share of women in managerial and administrative occupations is nearly equal to that of men – 15 percent compared to 17 percent. Another landmark came Tuesday, when General Motors picked Mary Barra, a 33-year company veteran, as the first female head of a major U.S. car company. Still, women currently hold just 45 Fortune 1000 CEO positions, the Pew report said.

The current ratio of hourly earnings for young women to young men, now at 93 percent, is up from 67 percent in 1980 and is the highest in government records dating back to at least 1979. Across all age groups, the median hourly wage for women last year was 84 percent as much as men: $14.90 vs. $17.79, up from 64 percent in 1980.

At the same time, the Pew study indicates that a woman’s job advancement often will hit a ceiling, due in part to competing demands of work and family. Women remain twice as likely as men to work part-time and are more likely to take significant time off from employment during their lives to care for children or other family members.

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