Pay Disparity

Women’s participation in the workforce has steadily increased over the last several decades to account for nearly half of all workers. Unfortunately, women’s earnings across almost all occupations are still below those of men. Women earn less even within the jobs that women are more likely to hold, such as secretaries, teachers, and nurses. The wage ratio in the 10 most common occupations for women ranges from 71.2 percent of men’s earnings for retail sales managers to 93.6 percent of men’s earnings for customer service representatives.1

Pay disparity affects women from all backgrounds. U.S. Census data for all occupations shows that in each racial and ethnic group, men have higher median weekly earnings than women. Lower wages for women also have a negative impact on the children supported by these women. If these women are married, their spouse will suffer the costs of the lower family wages as well. Pay equity legislation protects the right of women to receive equal pay for comparable work, prevents wage discrimination based on gender, and improves the financial stability of families, especially those headed by women.


1. Institute for Women’s Policy Research