How Far Have Women Come–Really?
After recently spending a lot of time in a co-ed intellectual environment that can be fairly described as being almost incorrigibly male-oriented, I got to thinking: how far have women in the U.S. come–really? We all tend to accept that gender inequality is much less of a problem today than it has been in the past, and I think that’s a fair assumption. But I’m not so sure that we have a great grip on the statistics or trends that either confirm this assertion or suggest that we have a lot more work to do. Indeed, when you look at the data, it’s clear that some things have changed and some things haven’t. Consider:
1. The most female professions amongst the 20 occupations that employ the largest number of women are secretaries (97% female), childcare workers (95%), nurses (92%), accounting clerks (92%), teacher assistants (91.6%), and receptionists (91.5%). In other words, the jobs you think of as being “girly” are still largely female. Depending on your point of view, this is either problematic proof of persistent patriarchy (say that three times fast) or just the way the world is–either due to female preferences or historical developments. But either way, it’s a pretty interesting tidbit.
2. Women still earn less than men. In 2008, the median female wage was 80% of the median male wage. The good news is that back in 1979, women only earned 62% as much as men, so women are faring better than they once did relative to men. Of course, 80% still isn’t 100%, and some people still attribute this gap to sexism. Others–including the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress’ investigative body for social issues–say that working patterns partially describe the difference. The argument here is that women are more likely to leave the workforce or work part-time for family reasons, thus suppressing aggregate wages. Statistics do show that women tend to have less work experience than men. It’s interesting to note, however, that even GAO says that pure economics can’t seem to explain away all of the gender gap.
3. The male-female earnings ratio changes across occupations. Women CEOs make 80% of what their male counterparts make; wholesale retail buyers make 97% of what their male peers make; female computer support specialists make 97% of what their male counterparts make; female special education teachers make 3.8% more than do males, and females in construction make almost 9% more. On the flip-side, the crappiest deals for women include legal occupations (56.7% of men), being a stock broker (where a woman makes 59.7% of men), and being a janitor (59.9%). This is certainly a confusing jumble of numbers, but it speaks to how complex and confounding the gender equality issue is across industry fault lines.
4. More than one-quarter of wives earn more than their husbands. Twenty-six percent of wives in dual-earner households bring home more bacon than do their men. In 1987, this proportion was just under 18%. The good news is that the husbands of tomorrow seem fine with the prospect of a breadwinning wife. A Center for American Progress survey found that 65.3 percent of women and 61.2 percent of men strongly agreed with the idea that they are comfortable with women earning more than men in a household.
So what’s the take-away here? I wish I knew. Clearly, total gender equality still eludes us, but at the same time there has been some progress. One interesting contextual point to consider: women make up about one-half of the workforce today. That might change the way we process some of this data. Sure, it’s nice if 26% of women earn more than their husbands; but do we really think that the other 74% of married women all objectively deserve less pay than men, when together they make up 50% of all Americans working today? Sounds fishy; but untangling the complexities of gender in the workforce is never easy.
Become a Member of The Faster Times today for as little $12 and you’ll receive at least $25 worth of gifts— plus the good feeling that comes with supporting a team of independent journalists who are trying to create a new model for the newspaper. (Sign up right away to make sure you receive an invite to our first members-only event).
Photo by gbaku
Follow us on twitter@thefastertimes
- 1 Amanda Bynes’s Behavior Revealed to Be Elaborate PSA
- 2 Obama Horrified by the Grammar in Our Emails
- 3 Monster Fart Prompting Management to Rethink “Open Office”
- 4 NSA Demanded Access To Un-Filtered Instagram Photos
- 5 Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Ambushed By Alan ‘The Paper’ Rubinstein
- 6 ‘Licensed to Kim Jong Il’ Records 27th Straight Year Atop N. Korean Charts
- 7 ‘A/S/L’ Most Asked Question At Kaplan Online University Reunion
- 8 Vice Magazine Now Only Hiring Writers Who Fail Drug Test
- 9 Stanley Cup Final One Blowout Away From “Boston Massacre” Headline Outrage