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Dec 11, 2013

U.S. gender pay gap beginning to close: Study

But many still hold pessimistic views about gender equality
By Hope Yen/The Associated Press
    
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Young American women are increasingly likely to receive pay nearly equal to their male counterparts, with earnings at 93 per cent 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 menthat age, the analysis of census and labour 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 per cent of the pay gap.

In all, 75 per cent 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 per cent of young men answered that way.

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

“Today's generation of young women is entering the labour 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 per cent compared to 17 per cent. 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 4.5 per cent of Fortune 1000 CEO positions, the Pew report said.

Andrew Cherlin, a sociology professor at Johns Hopkins University,attributed young women's negative assessments about gender equality to their rising career expectations. “More doors are now open to women, but they can nowsee how far they are from equality in high-level jobs,” he said.

The near-equal pay for young women is being driven in large part by their educational gains. Some 38 per cent of women ages 25-32 now hold bachelor's degrees, compared to 31 per cent of young men. As a result, 49 per cent of employed workers with at least a bachelor's degree last year were women, up from 36 per cent in 1980. That means more women in higher-skilled,higher-paying positions.

The current ratio of hourly earnings for young women to young men, now at 93 per cent, is up from 67 per cent 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 per cent as much as men — $14.90 vs. $17.79, up from 64 per cent 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.

Among young women, 59 per cent say that being a working parent makes it harder to advance in a job or career, compared to just 19 per cent of young men. Across all age groups, 22 per cent of women and 9 per cent of men report having quit jobs for family reasons at some point during their working lives.

Fewer young women than young men aspire to become a boss or top manager.Some 34 per cent say they're not interested, compared to 24 per cent of young men. And the vast majority of adults of all ages who reduced their work hours to care for family members — 94 per cent — say they are glad they did it.

“This report shows that we are still very much in a 'stalled revolution'when it comes to gender equality in the workplace — and young women see it,”said Pamela Smock, a sociology professor at the University of Michigan. “When we see our male CEOs taking off a day to care for a sick child, then we will be working in a more gender-equal workplace — and a more gender-equal world.”

The Pew study was based on interviews with 2,002 adults by cellphone or landline from Oct. 7 to 27. The Pew poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.

    
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