Equal Pay/Fair Wage

Year Ends With Wider-Than-Ever Wage Gap

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Women's pay gap in 2003 is actually wider than it was 20 years ago. As a consequence, baby boomer women face a financial crisis, with far less money than men to pay for their typically longer retirement years.

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Carolyn Maloney

(WOMENSENEWS)--"Twenty years ago conventional wisdom held that as more women entered the work force and as attitudes changed, the wage gap would gradually narrow," says U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat from New York.

However, at the end of 2003, women, according to studies published recently, are even farther away from matching men's earning power.

A November congressional study indicates that women are paid an average of 79.7 cents for every dollar paid to men, versus 80.4 cents in 1983. Meanwhile a study released in early December by the National Association for Female Executives found a gap in the salaries of men and women with identical jobs and experience, even in professions dominated by women such as teaching, nursing and public relations.

Maloney, along with Representative John Dingell, a Democrat from Michigan, commissioned the study, "Women's Earnings: Work PatternsPartially Explain Difference between Men's and Women's Earnings," by the federal General Accounting Office. "At this point," Maloney says, "the question isn't 'Does the glass ceiling exist?' but instead, 'Is it a permanent fixture?'"

The federal study looks at 18 years of data on more than 9,300 U.S. citizens and factors in variances in occupation, race, marital status, job tenure and other circumstances that might account for wage differences, such as women leaving the work force to care for a child.

"Conservatives have argued that this is self-inflicted, that women make lifestyle choices that take them out of the work force, giving them fewer hours or easier jobs," Maloney says. "But this argument has proved to be as wrong as it is convenient. Lifestyle choices just don't explain away this phenomenon." Without factoring in these circumstances, women, according to the congressional study, would actually be making an average 44 cents on the dollar.

Huge Hit on Retirement Savings

The National Association for Female Executives' annual salary survey of 21 different professions indicated that men continue to earn an average $10,000 more than women. In the study by the New York-based professional association, women in accounting, advertising, law or public relations may be taking home $20,000 less each year than men with comparable experience. Even in sales, women make $30,000 less annually.

For the first time, the association looked at what would happen if a woman had that average $10,000 difference to invest over a 40-year career. Compounded at an interest rate of 10 percent, she could make over $4 million in 40 years.

"This is really a crisis for baby boomer women," says Betty Spence, president of the National Association for Female Executives. "Women live longer than men, so they need to retire on more than men. But they earn less during their careers than men, so they have less to save."

In addition, women are less likely to get a pension when they retire. While 47 percent of men over 65 receive a pension, only 30 percent of women do. Women over 65 have an average annual income of $14,200 compared to men's $39,000. And single women over 50 are the most likely to be poor compared to single older men and married older couples.

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