Insight Needed on Gender-Based Job Segregation

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There’s an obvious and worthy goal of a new federal proposal to collect more wage data by gender and race: figuring out whether workers receive unfair pay.

Inequity harms employees, their families and undermines values that are core to many Americans. By requiring wage data from businesses with at least 100 employees, officials with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Friday they are looking to:

  • Identify ‘possible pay discrimination and assist employers in promoting equal pay’
  • ‘Help employers in conducting their own analysis of their pay practices’
  • ‘Use this pay data to assess complaints of discrimination, focus agency investigations, and identify existing pay disparities that may warrant further examination.’

The EEOC also touched on a more subtle, yet still key, goal to close the wage gap. The agency wants to gain ‘insight into pay disparities across industries and occupations,’ officials said.

Cutting occupational segregation is an important step to narrow the wage gap between men and women. That is, women need to increasingly enter well-paid jobs and industries to make as much as men. Currently, women dominate the most common low-wage occupations, such as childcare workers and home health aides.

A greater share of women working in higher-earning fields could help narrow the wage gap. Currently, women’s earnings are about 80% of men’s among full-time workers.

An employment environment that supports men and women throughout their lives — as children are born, family members require care and life evolves — would support equitable compensation. Providing paid parental leave to men and women, for example, would help workers balance demands from the office and families. An absence of gender-based penalties for attending to family matters — equally honoring men and women’s ambitions, natural desires and obligations — could boost opportunities and success for all workers.

Researchers with the NY Fed recently explored the pay gap between the sexes and found that early in their careers, there were earnings premiums for women in certain majors. But those premiums evaporated as workers approached their mid-career, perhaps due to discrimination or family-care responsibilities.

–Ruth

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