Young Women, Eager for Careers, Still Face Wage Gap

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A new report from Pew Research offers an odd set of conclusions. Young women are more anxious to achieve success in a high-paying career or a profession that is important in their lives than men of the same age. What Pew does not highlight very much is that it is very likely these same women will be paid much less than their male counterparts, based on the conclusions of nearly every piece of research on the subject of the gender differences in pay.

Pew reports

Two-thirds (66%) of young women ages 18 to 34 rate career high on their list of life priorities, compared with 59% of young men. In 1997, 56% of young women and 58% of young men felt the same way.

The other critical observation from the report is that:

Though women are increasingly focused on college and career, the share who place marriage and parenthood high on the list of priorities is undiminished.

Former General Electric (NYSE: GE) CEO Jack Welch, considered the preeminent chief executive of his generation, was lambasted when he said in July 2009: “There’s no such thing as work-life balance. There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.” The target of his comments was women who wanted to become senior executives. Men, he claimed, were more willing to cordon off their time with family in the name of reaching the top of the corporate pyramid.

Welch did not say anything about research from firms, which include Catalyst, that show that among the nation’s largest companies there are very few women directors and top executives. He did not need to. The evidence is incontrovertible. The only cause for the trend is that men do not want women in the board room or in executive offices because it cuts their chances of holding those jobs. The same probably applies to men and women at the lower levels of the workforce. Depending on the origin of the data, men continue to make more money for the same jobs than women do. The ratio is about 70% or 80% nationwide.

The National Partnership for Women & Families reported earlier this year that women are paid 77 cents to the dollar for doing the same jobs as men do. Sarah Crawford spoke for the association and said, “We hope to see the gap close from year to year, but this year the gap remains stagnant.” If that gap is closing, it is very slowly.

Hope springs eternal. The aspirations of women to do well financially and to be successful in their work clearly has risen, according to Pew. Yet, there is almost nothing to show they will be rewarded, at least in terms of what they are paid.

Douglas A. McIntyre