The Norman Transcript

Columns

February 10, 2014

Gender pay equity problem continues

(Continued)

NORMAN —

A study of 2012 data by Pew Research Center accounted for some of those factors and found women earn 84 cents for every $1 earned by men.

Within Barra’s lifetime (she’s 52), the employment landscape for women has changed considerably. The last half-century is the focus of a new study by the Council on Contemporary Families, which notes the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which also outlawed discrimination by gender.

In 1963, full-time working women earned 59 cents for every dollar men earned. That’s risen by 30 percent since that time, if one accepts the 77 cent mark, Max Coleman of Oberlin College points out in “Civil Rights for Women: 1964-2014.”

Younger female workers, aged 25 to 34, show special promise for the future as their hourly earnings are now 93 percent of men’s, the study found. But it also pointed out what many people realize — that pay inequities increase when working women have children.

That’s where the work must begin in earnest, because company policies, prevailing attitudes about maternity and paternity leave, and the availability of childcare are factors that strongly influence the decisions families make about work.

It’s difficult and very costly to leave the workforce to have children and then to return even a few years later. The blame for this tends to land back on women, for choosing to cut work hours in the first place, or for not negotiating better when re-entering the workforce after their children begin school.

There is some validity to the argument that women fall short of men in negotiating raises and promotions for themselves, but the point requires context.

Women should not be faulted for this without acknowledging why such self-defeating behavior evolved in the first place. As Sheryl Sandberg pointed out in her book “Lean In,” people expect men to negotiate on their own behalf, but the same behavior by a woman will often backfire.

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