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Gender Pay Gap. It’s 2023 and Women Still Make Less

Women earn about 20 cents less than men nationally — the gap is slightly less in New York

By Stefan Yablonski

In the last 20 years, the difference between the earnings of men and women — the gender pay gap — has barely closed at all. As recently as 2022, women, on average, earned 81.5 cents for every dollar that men earned — about the same as 2002 (80 cents).

Two decades prior, in 1982, women earned just 65 cents to each dollar earned by men.

Women in New York earned 88.2 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2021, a significantly smaller gap than the national average of 81.5 cents, according to a NYS Department of Labor report.

So, why has progress toward narrowing the gap stalled?

Elizabeth Dunne Schmitt

There is no single explanation, said Elizabeth Dunne Schmitt, Ph.D., professor of economics and chairwoman of faculty assembly at SUNY Oswego.

“A lot of the gap falls on balancing home and work life,” she said. “The gap almost disappears when you compare women who have no children compared to men. There are constraints placed
on women that aren’t on men. It
affects the kind of occupations that women choose.”

“We’re the only high-income country without much of a paternity leave policy — there isn’t really child care subsidiaries — other countries are more generous with those types of policies,” she continued. “Child rearing is a penalty on the person most responsible — the primary care giver.”

Women are faced with a choice, child rearing, household management and a career, she said.

Today, men are taking more household responsibilities — but if you go back a couple generations — things were very different.

“Generational attitude changes from generation to generation,” she said. “But things change slowly.”

Mothers with children at home tend to be less engaged with the workplace, while fathers are more active, the Pew Research Center noted.

Narrowing the gap in NY

The gender pay gap in New York narrowed between 2019 and 2021 — despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

People analytics firm Visier released data on pay equity for Equal Pay Day, drawing on workforce data for more than 1 million U.S. employees across 86 organizations through 2021. Equal Pay Day commemorates the persistent and egregious fact that, because women’s wages are on average lower than men’s, women must work significantly into the new year to earn the same as what men were paid the previous year.

This year Equal Pay Day fell on March 14.

Visier’s “The State of Gender Pay Equity in 2022” report showed a slightly smaller overall pay gap between men and women.

Despite initial concern that pandemic-induced job losses would slow pay equity efforts, the gender pay gap continued to close in 2021, with average pay for women overall increasing by 2 cents to 85 cents for every $1 paid to men.

In the workforce overall, female managers in 2021 were paid 90 cents for every $1 paid to male managers, an increase of 4 cents over 2021, when female managers were paid 86 cents for every $1 paid to men in management.

If the gender pay gap continues to close at this rate, pay equity would be achieved by 2029.

“The positive news is that the increase in pay equity in 2021 actually countered the predictions, which were calling for a potential reduction in pay equity and a widening of the pay gap in 2021 due to pandemic-related job losses and uncertainty around remote work and shifting societal norms,” said Andrea Derler, Visier’s head of research.

The pandemic had big consequences for women’s labor force participation and this has long-run implications for the gender gap since this impacts experience and earnings, Schmitt said.

It had a negative impact on mothers more than fathers. Daycares closing and schools going to online — parents with small children really had to make decisions. It affected women’s labor force participation, she said.

During the pandemic, women were over-represented in jobs deemed essential and in jobs needing to be done in person — thus denying those women the ability to perform their work remotely, she pointed out.

It also exposed them to a greater likelihood of job loss since many of the face-to-face jobs were also those most prone to layoffs, Schmitt added.

In April 2020, 45% of mothers of school-age children were not working nationally.

Mothers aged 25 to 44 are less likely to be in the labor force than women of the same age who do not have children at home and they tend to work fewer hours each week when employed. This can reduce the earnings of some mothers, although evidence suggests the effect is either modest overall or short-lived for many, according to the Pew Research Center.

Fathers are more likely to be in the labor force — and to work more hours each week — than men without children at home, they added.

Pandemic’s impact on women

The pandemic-induced economic recession had a major impact on women in the labor force. From 2019 to 2021, the unemployment rate for women nearly doubled from 4.2% to 8.2%, according to the Pew Research Center.

In 2021, more than 405,000 women were unemployed, a significant increase from 207,000 in 2019.

During The Great Recession, industrial and manufacturing were particularly hard hit; so men took a real unemployment hit and women really not that much, according to Schmitt.

“What happened in the pandemic is that women were more represented in a lot of service industries that were actually shut down. Women took a harder hit in the leisure, hospitality kind of industries and so their unemployment rates were higher,” she said. “Women left the labor force — they have been trickling back in. But, with the overall labor shortage, child care has taken a big hit and hasn’t recovered. So women are really facing constraints. They’re looking for care for their children and they are trying to be in the labor force.”

Women generally begin their careers closer to wage parity with men, Schmitt pointed out.

The pay gap persists even though women today are more likely than men to have graduated from college, a Pew study revealed. In fact, the pay gap between college-educated women and men is not any narrower than the one between women and men who do not have a college degree.

Women lose ground as they age and progress through their work lives —a pattern that has remained consistent over time.

Notably, the gender wage gap has closed more among workers without a four-year college degree than among those who do have a bachelor’s degree or more education. For example, the wage gap for women without a high school diploma narrowed from 62% in 1982 to 83% in 2022 relative to men at the same education level. But it closed only from 69% to 79% among bachelor’s degree holders over the same period. This is because only men with at least a bachelor’s degree experienced positive wage growth from 1982 to 2022; all other men saw their real wages decrease. Meanwhile, the real earnings of women increased regardless of their level of education.

Schmitt offered one way to help close the gap.

“We are critically short in the trades. There is learning trades plumbing electrician elevator repair (we have 47 elevators on this campus — I just learned that an elevator repair person earns about a quarter of a million dollars a year) — women are really under-represented in the trades,” she said.

If you want to close the gap, there is a real opportunity to reach out to women under represented in trades, she added.

“There is a growing need for more women in industries such as construction and apprenticeable trades occupations, especially with all of the building and road construction planned for the Central New York region,” agreed Karen Knapik-Scalzo, associate economist, NYS Department of Labor, Syracuse.

More sustained progress in closing the pay gap may depend on deeper changes in societal and cultural norms and in workplace flexibility that affect how men and women balance their careers and family lives, the Pew Research Center reported.