Recently released 2010 census data shows the gender gap unimproved from the year before—women still make only 77 cents to every dollar a man makes. For women of color this discrepancy is even larger. African American women earned only 67.7 cents and Latinas earned 58.7 cents to the male dollar. Despite the fact that women are becoming more educated than men on average, they still continue to have significantly lower salaries. As we have blogged before, this wage discrepancy is caused by numerous factors, but two significant ones are thought to be discrimination in the workplace and difficultly in balancing work and family life.
Unfortunately, this news is further evidence that progress towards wage equality is stalling. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that “over the past decade, the wage gap narrowed by less than one percentage point, compared with four percentage points between 1991 and 2000. In the decade prior to that, 1981 to 1990, the gap closed by even more: ten percentage points…”
To help women break the glass ceiling and to help the businesses they work for in the process, Editorial Director of Working Mother magazine, Jennifer Owens, suggests that companies start offering more flexible work schedule hours to help women balance their work and family lives. If more companies offered flexible schedules the effect on narrowing the wage gap could be significant. Owens notes that
Pay levels are, in general, equal for men and women until about the age that women begin to have children. Once the pressures of family appear, women’s comparative pay shrinks, in part, because too many women are forced either to leave the workforce or dial back their careers to take over childcare duties. Once they return to work, women find their pay rate diminished. In fact, studies find the pay gap is actually worse between working mothers and women without children, than between women and men.
More flexible work hours would not only help female employees who continue to work after motherhood, but the companies they work for as well. Owens stated that “Flexibility has a direct connection to the bottom line in terms of reduced turnover and thus, lower costs for recruitment and training of replacement employees…it also ties directly to lower absenteeism.” Working Mother recently published a list of 100 Best Companies for mothers in the workforce. These businesses, as a result of offering paid maternity leave and flexible schedules, have benefitted from “higher productivity, increased engagement, lower turnover, and better health” of their employees.
To find out more about the struggle for pay equity and what you can do to advocate for fair wages, click here.