Women have dominated part-time work for the past decade or so, and this has played a role in why the gender wage gap persists and why women are so underrepresented in upper-level, high-earning jobs. However, recent reports show that more women are making a shift from part-time to full-time work. This shift is great for the economy, of course – but, more importantly, it’s an indicator that we are getting that much closer to workplace equality for working women in America. Here’s what you need to know.
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Women make up half of the American workforce, but it’s men who dominate the full-time employment sector, and women the part-time sector, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2014, women (16 years and over) made up about 64 percent of part-time workers, but only about 43 percent of full-time workers. However, that might be changing.
As reported in The Wall Street Journal, 71.8 percent of women had full-time jobs in 2013 and 72.7 percent had full-time jobs in 2014. This increase was most significant for Hispanic women (1 percent increase) and Asian women (1.2 percent increase), while white women and black women experienced only a 0.9 percent increase last year.
Part-Time Work and the Gender Pay Gap
Men and women seem to be pretty equal in their pay early on in their careers (right out of college), however, that changes 10-15 years into their careers. If you think about it, this is around the time when couples decide to start a family and the focus for some mothers shifts from a career to raising a child. Many new mothers either choose to or are forced to leave their careers to raise their children for various reasons. This negatively impacts their career trajectory due to limited free time, shifts in priorities, gaps in employment, etc.
Mothers returning to the workforce may to take on part-time work that allows them to earn an income and have the flexibility to deal with family responsibilities at the same time. However, this also means that women will earn less than men, as a whole, because a part-time worker earns less money than a full-time worker in the same field (for the most part).
Additionally, part-time workers are often less likely to get promotions and raises as often and as full-time workers, thus perpetuating the low numbers of women in upper-level and high-earning positions. (Even if women do make it to the top, they will still make less than their male counterparts, unfortunately.)
What Does It Mean?
While men are still more likely to have full-time work, the WSJ notes that “the share of men working full time barely ticked up in 2014, to 85.7%.” It’s probably not just economic recovery fueling this return to full-time work for women.
This data could indicate that the efforts to eradicate gender inequalities in the workplace are finally paying off. It’s now commonplace to see, hear, and read about the gender pay gap. An increasing number of big brands (particularly big tech companies) are implementing diversity programs that aim to end inequalities in the workplace, especially for women and minorities. More influencers, both male and female, are stepping up and speaking about the issues women face in their careers, rather than sweeping it under the rug like the generations before.
Bottom line, progress is being made – however, the battle for true equality in the workplace is far from over. What you, I, and the rest of the world can do is continue having conversations about inequality, stereotypes, and barriers for women and their careers. With a bit of determination and patience, these seemingly small victories will break down the barriers that have been holding women back from reaching their full potential for far too long.
Tell Us What You Think
What other positive changes have you noticed in the battle to eradicate workplace inequality in America? Share your thoughts with our community on Twitter or leave a comment below.