Women are Losing $16.2B Each Year – Hard Numbers on the Gender Wage Gap

Women are Losing $16.2B Each Year – Hard Numbers on the Gender Wage Gap

Some rather eye-opening new data has been published about the ways in which the gender wage gap is impacting women in Indiana. Though we’ve been hearing about the issue for a long time now, there hasn’t been a whole lot of available research to put its specific effects on the state’s economy into perspective – until now, that is.

A new report shows that Indiana women are losing a combined total of nearly $16.2 billion every year to the gender wage gap, according to data from the National Partnership for Women and Families, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit that used U.S. Census data for its findings. Researchers noted that Indiana has the sixth-largest cents-on-the-dollar gap in the nation.

Many of us have probably heard that a female full-time, year-round employee in Indiana earns about 74 percent of what her male peers earn annually. That statistic is frequently cited, but it takes on a whole new significance when you realize the percentage amounts to about a $12,717 pay difference each year, on average.

If you break down the gap into actual buying power, an extra $12,717 would make a huge impact on Indiana families. For example, that figure would annually amount to roughly:

  • 93 weeks of food for a family,
  • nearly 12 months of mortgage and utilities payments,
  • 4 years of tuition and fees for a four-year public university,
  • the full cost of tuition and fees for a two-year community college,
  • 5 additional months of rent,
  • or more than 16 additional months of child care.

The problem is compounded tremendously for Indiana’s female minorities. Latina women are statistically paid over $23,000 less than men each year – almost double the average figures for all women – and black women are paid over $18,000 less than men.

“The gender-based wage gap results in staggering losses that make it harder for women, in Indiana and across the country, to pay for food and shelter, child care, college tuition, and health care. We urgently need public policies that improve women’s access to decent-paying jobs, provide the support women need to stay in the workforce and advance in their jobs, and ensure fair and nondiscriminatory treatment wherever women work and whatever jobs they hold,” said National Partnership Vice President for Workplace Policies and Strategies Vicki Shabo.

A Problem for Everyone, Not Just Women

Cumulatively, the impacts of this wage gap are a lot like an anchor holding back our entire country’s economy, driving households toward lower income brackets.

“Women’s earnings are increasingly important to the economic stability of families. In the United States, half of all households with children under 18 have a breadwinner mother, who is either a single mother who heads a household, regardless of earnings, or a married mother who provides at least 40 percent of the couple’s joint earnings,” reported economic experts from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a D.C.-based nonprofit that focuses on policy advocacy.

“And many women without children, both single and married, work to support themselves and other family members. Thus, persistent earnings inequality for working women translates into lower pay, less family income, and more children and families in poverty,” researchers said.

What Can We Change?

The National Partnership has several policy recommendations on the federal level that it is urging congress to pass, including such items as the Paycheck Fairness Act that would help establish stronger workplace wage protections, and the Fair Pay Act that would help diminish wage disparities that result from gender-based occupational segregation.

On the state level, the National Partnership recommends that state lawmakers help address the wage gap by passing laws that prohibit employers from asking about salary history and protect employees from retaliation if they discuss pay. Several states have already passed laws like these.

“Proponents argue that greater pay equity results from employers making salary offers based on job requirements and market ranges, rather than past salaries. If an applicant’s current salary is under-market, banning salary questions may correct pay inequities,” writes Catherine Strauss, a partner at Ice Miller LLP, an Indianapolis-based law firm.

Lastly, the private sector is expected to play a huge role in reversing this trend as well – particularly as more women become involved in executive roles. There is reason for optimism here, as new data is reflecting a recent and rapid shift in hiring practices in 2018.

Specifically, “looking at hires within the $150k and above ‘executive’ salary band, there has been a 41 percent jump in the ratio of female to male hires made after October of 2017, correlating with the start of the global #MeToo movement. Additionally, the analysis showed that female executive salaries are increasing at 2X the rate of their male counterparts,” according to findings from Scout Exchange, a Boston-based platform for marketplace recruiting.

The private sector can help level the playing field by increasing pay transparency and using standardized pay ranges in hiring and promotions. Also, in discontinuing the use of salary history as a starting point for wage negotiations, past discriminations will hopefully be overcome rather than perpetuated.

This issue, although understandably infuriating, is something within the realm of control for the business community. It’s true the gender wage gap is something that’s holding back our entire economy but it’s a problem that can be fixed with a little progressive thinking and a dose of common sense. By leveling the playing field, we’ll be strengthening our entire country’s future.

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