Good News for Younger Women: There’s a Smaller Wage Gap

September 29, 2010

I’ve written previous blogs about my concerns with the continuing wage gap between men and women (see February 27, 2008 blog, “Why Women Still Make Less Than Men:  Little Progress Made Over the Last Two Decades”), but I’m happy to say the U.S. Department of Labor released statistics earlier this year that show a positive improvement for women and the wage gap…for younger women that is.

According to their June 2010 report, for women working full-time during 2009:

  • Women aged 35 and older earned roughly 75% of what male counterparts earned.
  • Women aged 25-34 earned 89% of what male counterparts earned.
  • Women aged 16-24 earned 93% of what male counterparts earned.

Why the difference in the wage gap for older women versus younger women?  Here are my thoughts:

  • Older women may have entered the workforce later in life than their male counterparts so they have fewer years of work experience, due to marriage and raising families, than their male colleagues and thus earn less.
  • Back when older women first entered the workforce, there existed a much higher level of discrimination against women about what were acceptable roles for them in the workplace, forcing women into the more “people-service” oriented positions with lower paying wages.  Many of these barriers have been broken, allowing younger women much greater freedom of job choice in their careers, and thus increased earnings potential.
  • More and more young women are entering the workforce directly after high school or college and delaying marriage (average age women married in 1950 was 20.3 whereas the average age women married in 2007 was 26.0).  They are beginning their careers already on equal footing with their male counterparts.
  • Older women are more likely than younger women to leave the labor force for periods of time in order to care for elderly parents, thus forcing them to give up potential lucrative promotions or positions with increasing responsibility and pay.
  • Women now earn slightly more than half the college degrees (2007-2008 women earned 57.3% of all Bachelor’s degrees and 60.6% of all Master’s degrees) which means younger women are in a better position to obtain higher level jobs earlier in their careers, thus increasing their earnings potential.

The good news is that our daughters and their future daughters, when they enter the workforce, will continue to close the wage gap that currently exists between women and men.  And investing in college educations for young women will be one of the most powerful ways to close the gap even faster!  The future looks bright for young women!

~ Lisa Quast

Links:

February 27, 2008 blog, “Why Women Still Make Less Than Men”:  http://www.careerwomaninc.com/blog/?p=74

Highlights of women’s earnings in 2009:  http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpswom2009.pdf

Median age for marrying:  http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0005061.html#axzz0zR2FHu3T

Statistics on college degrees: http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=72

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