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He Earns, She Earns

A new study by the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation that cites a pay gap between men and women has sparked a flurry of discussion.

A new study by the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation that cites a pay gap between men and women has sparked a flurry of discussion.

According to an AAUW release:

” … just one year out of college, women working full time already
earn less than their male colleagues, even when they work in the same
field. Ten years after graduation, the pay gap widens.

In the report, Behind the Pay Gap, the AAUW Educational Foundation
found that just one year after college graduation, women earn only 80
percent of what their male counterparts earn. Ten years after
graduation, women fall further behind, earning only 69 percent of what
men earn. Even after controlling for hours, occupation, parenthood, and
other factors known to affect earnings, the research indicates that
one-quarter of the pay gap remains unexplained and is likely due to sex
discrimination. Over time, the unexplained portion of the pay gap
grows.”

Do You Know What You're Worth?

Some writers and experts say the study underscores the need to end
gender discrimination when it comes to paychecks. What raised my
interest was something Cathy Arnst wrote at BusinessWeek.com:

“… the researchers do suggest that women themselves may be partly
to blame for the gap: ‘Women expect less and negotiate less pay for
themselves than do men.’

I hate to blame the victim, but that sounds plausible to me. I know
far too many women who think it is somehow unseemly in the workplace to
promote themselves, or demand more money. I think many women
consistently undervalue themselves and their skills, which may be why
many of us take on the bulk of the household chores even though we hold
demanding jobs. Do we too easily assume that somehow the husband’s job
is more important, either because he works more hours (and how much of
that is by choice?) or earns more? Perhaps its time to re-evaluate our
worth, both on the job and at home. Or at the very least teach our
daughters to be more demanding.”

Working Moms

The AAUW study speaks to the issue of working moms, suggesting that
supporting mothers in the workforce is one way to narrow the gender pay
gap. Employers should provide more high-quality part-time career
opportunities, the study says, and reconsider whether the number of hours worked are the
best measurement for productivity:

“Many firms are successfully challenging the notion that more hours
are equivalent to more productivity. One recent example is the company
Best Buy. Faced with retention and morale issues, this retailer
instituted a policy called ROWE (Results-Only Work Environment), where
workers set their own schedules and are responsible for meeting
performance goals. The results have been positive, with improved
retention and productivity (Conlin, 2006).”

I happen to be working on a story about mothers who, after a
temporary hiatus, seek to return to the workforce, and how retiring
baby boomers might help their case.

Two of my sources echoed the AAUW study’s suggestions. Jen Singer,
editor of MommaSaid.net, said more employers will be offering
high-quality, flexible jobs, which working moms want.

Roberta Chinsky Matuson, principal of Northampton, Mass.-based Human
Resource Solutions, said the baby boom exodus will force employers to
be more flexible, emphasizing results instead of time spent at the
office.

Equal Mindset

Perhaps the boomers’ looming life-shift will bolster opportunities
for working moms, thereby helping narrow the pay gap. But as my sources
have pointed out, that won’t happen overnight.

In the meantime, women must learn to speak up for themselves in the
workplace, as Arnst suggests. I can attest to the female tendency to
avoid money-talk, to shy away from being a cheerleader for one’s own
cause.

But when I consider what women have accomplished–we’re senators,
judges, policy-makers, trendsetters, nurturers, sole-providers,
astronauts, brain surgeons and more–I realize there’s very little we
can’t do. Going to the moon and back, making laws, saving lives and
molding them–aren’t those all causes worthy of some loud cheering?

–kc

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