First, the good news. Women are earning more money today than they were 10 years ago. Slowly but surely, gender pay disparities are becoming a thing of the past.
Historically, women have always earned less than men. When women first went to work outside of the home, they typically took on “pink collar” jobs that, for many reasons, paid a lower salary. However, as women began to become more educated and branch into different fields, even those dominated by men, they found that their salaries remained lower than that of their male counterparts…even if they were doing the same jobs.
That is changing. According to newly released statistics, women earned just less than 83 percent of the weekly wage men did in the second quarter of this year; 10 years ago, women earned around 76 percent of what men did. African-American women, especially, have seen the income gap widen: the weekly salary for Black women increased by nearly 9 percent, while that of Black men dropped more than 2 percent.
Now, for the bad news. Women are earning more but men, typically employed in industries hit hardest by the recession, are increasingly finding themselves out of work. This is disturbing because it makes one wonder what will happen to the pay gap when the economy rebounds and the men who are currently unemployed go back to work. Will it continue to shrink or will it widen?
The fact remains that women, who make up nearly half of the workforce, earn less than their male peers at every education level. It is not a positive sign when a woman’s financial success is tied to the financial hardships of her male counterparts. The income gap should be closed, not because men are being locked out of the workplace, but because employers pay equal money for equal work.
(Greg Mathis is vice president of RainbowPUSH and a board member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.)