Women lose wage premium for certain college majors by mid-career


Researchers with the NY Fed explored the pay gap between the sexes.

Here were some notable findings:

*Women earn about 97 cents for each dollar earned by men with the same college major and doing the same jobs among recent college graduates.

*Early in their careers, women earn at least as much as men in 29 of 73 majors. Women’s earnings premiums were for majors such as engineering, treatment therapy and art history.

*Women’s wage premium evaporates as workers approach their mid-career.

Here are the researchers’ possible explanations for their findings:

* Discrimination may be “more widespread” as workers approach the middle of their careers.

* Women are more likely than men to drop out of the labor force to raise kids, cutting their work experience.

*Women with care-taking duties who need schedule flexibility may receive low wages.

Read more: The pay gap between the sexes


Companies crank up using temporary workers


Alia wrote about “the depths to which private employers will go to extract the most labor from workers for the least cost,” and how on-call workers, those who don’t know when their employers will need them, have trouble making ends meets.

Congressional investigators examined the size of the “contingent” workforce — these are workers who don’t have permanent jobs, tend to earn less than others and are less likely to have access to benefits. The Government Accountability Office found that contingent workers have seen their share of the total labor force grow in recent years, a trend likely tied to the Great Recession. This expansion may explain why there’s been such weak wage growth even though the unemployment rate has trended down for years.

On-call-work issues are particularly salient to women workers. Women tend to make less than men and are more likely than men to head households with only one parent.


Equal opportunity is great…for some of us

One of my long-standing critiques of the way that gender equality has been approached in the U.S. is the over reliance on codifying equal opportunity. The question always comes up — “equal opportunity for whom?” In this post by Caroline Frederickson of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, I was stunned, yet again, by the depths to which private employers will go to extract the most labor from workers for the least cost. And when I say “labor” and “workers,” we’re talking about actual human beings — people — with their own basic needs, aspirations, families, and bottom lines to look out for.

As Ms. Frederickson reports, “because of lack of bargaining power in a weak economy, employees find themselves at the mercy of companies that have adopted a just-in-time system, meaning they keep a pool of workers on call subject to the demands of management.” Having to call-in to find out whether you have work today means that people can’t even count on a weekly salary, much less plan for the things that make employment possible, like affordable, quality child care or transportation. And it should be no surprise by now that it’s women who bear the appalling human, financial and environmental costs of our “free market” race-to-the-bottom economy.

It seems sacrilege to question the importance of equal pay, pregnancy non-discrimination and the like. While policy guarantees to those effects can create some safeguards for women workers, they don’t do anything to alleviate the burden of reproductive labor and care work that still falls pretty squarely on women’s shoulders. Employers may incur short-term increases in their costs, but this in no way shifts the dominant workplace culture that can be downright hostile to employees’ personal and family needs.


Hooray that women can still work while pregnant. But for someone who has actually been pregnant, pregnancy alone is a colossal physical, mental and emotional job in and of itself, not to mention the human being you get at the end of it. This is tough enough when you have a desk job; more than daunting if you’re in one of the many gendered professions that countless women find themselves in — low-wage work, care giving, teaching, nursing, to name a few. And though I think we’re not supposed to admit it, trying to producing “equal work” compared to that of non-childbearing male peers is a sure-fire recipe for feeling like a constant failure and stretched beyond your limits in every part of your life.

Read more: Behind the pay gap between men and women.


Rejecting the ‘Barbie box’


Actress Amber Heard may not inspire much interest or sympathy among working women. She’s stunning and rich, and worries about things like losing her freedom to fame.

Still, in a recent Elle article, she made an interesting point about not wanting to be put in a “Barbie box” for her work:

“I feel like I’m constantly fighting against my exterior, or this exterior presentation of myself because of how I look or perhaps because of who I’m with.”

There are women whose jobs depend on them looking like someone’s fantasy version of a female. Such work can be lucrative and, depending on a woman’s preferences, satisfying.

But many women feel burdened by employers who create career constraints based on superficial perceptions of gender and capabilities. On a related noted, working mothers know all too well the frustration of finding themselves shoved into a “mommy track” by an employer over fears that family obligations will interfere with productivity.


Who cares about valuing household work? Insurers.

The insurance industry is one part of the economy that cares about valuing the work that parents put into household chores.

As Father’s Day approaches (it’s June 21), Insure.com, which bills itself as the most cited independent consumer-insurance site, calculated that a father’s household tasks, such as mowing the lawn, are worth almost $26,000 per year. That value is based on wages for different chores typically performed by dads, and how much time they spend on those tasks.

Why do insurers care about fairly valuing household work? They want to sell life insurance. Insure.com quoted its managing editor, Robert Beaupre, saying:

“The value of Dad’s contributions around the house and his annual salary are real figures that will need to be covered if something were to happen to him…If you can skip going out to eat at work a couple of times per month, you can probably set aside enough money to pay for a term life insurance policy and give your family that peace of mind.”

Here’s the site’s table showing how it calculated the value of fathers’ household work.


Do women know how they’re doing in the economy?

For those keeping score, women nabbed most of the new jobs last month, making up two-thirds of net nonfarm payroll growth, according to government data released Friday.

Longer-term trends show that women’s employment gains have far outpaced men’s since the start of the Great Recession. Women hold almost 2.4 million more jobs than they did at the end of 2007, when the downturn began, compared with men’s gain of less than 1 million.


This is all good news for women, with the caveat that they dominate relatively low-wage industries. But since the report was released, I find myself wondering: How many women know about how they are faring in today’s economy?

I don’t expect many people to tune into the daily spewing of economic data from the government, industry and think tanks. But when there’s a blockbuster jobs report, the kind that influences the most powerful regulators and lawmakers in the world, I hope that adult women are aware that something important is happening.

Women are underrepresented among business and economics reporters. Looking at my personal sample size of one, among people who follow my economics Tweets, only 16% are women. One of my former editors recently reported that less than one-in-10 women “frequently discuss saving and planning for retirement with family and close friends.” And according to the American Press Institute, an Arlington, Va.-research group, about 76% of men follow business and economy news, compared with 65% of women.

Women tend to earn less than men, heightening the importance for them to pay attention to their finances, as well as local and national economic trends. A woman who is aware that there’s a bias in the distribution of, say, wages, is one who has knowledge that can arm her in the fight for equal pay. A woman who knows which occupations are growing and where can make informed career choices.


A vicious cycle for men who put family first

HuffPo’s Emily Peck ran a great Q&A with a father who wanted to use company leave benefits after his wife gave birth, but was denied. (Full disclosure: When Peck was at WSJ, she edited several posts I wrote for the paper’s site about balancing working and family.)

In the HuffPo Q&A, Josh Levs described how he was told that he was ineligible for paid caregiving leave when his third child was born. Levs said:

“There’s a vicious cycle punishing men who put family first. So many businesses reward men for just staying at the office for longer. Today’s dads are very involved at work, but the people in the C-suites are the few men who admit they don’t prioritize their family. They believe work-life conflict is a woman’s problem. They’re wrong.”

As Woman’s Work has noted before, it’s important for more men to appreciate their economic stake in caregiving. And as Levs makes clear, he and lots of other dads would like to spend more time with their little ones. A society that no longer labels caregiving as a “woman’s issue” is one that may move closer to properly valuing such work, and expanding opportunities for men and women to take the time needed to care for kids and older relatives without facing a financial shock.


Men who can’t take advantage of company leave benefits certainly have cause for complaint. But a big-picture view of the U.S. shows an unpleasant truth: The less money you make, the less likely you are to have access to paid leave, and women are overrepresented in the most common low-wage occupations. Women of color, in particular, tend to make less than their white counterparts.

Of note, in a 2014 report on the economics of paid leave, the White House points to an interesting phenomenon: While almost four-in-10 workers say they can take some paid leave to welcome a new child, just 11% of workers are actually covered by paid leave policies.

What’s going on? The paper explains: “The gap between workers’ and employers’ reports suggests that informal arrangements with managers and the use of other forms of leave, like paid vacation, may currently be playing an important role.”

So it seems that there is employer awareness of the importance of paid leave. But companies remain wary of formalizing policies. Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to lag other major economies on mandating access to paid parental leave, but some states are supporting workers with such benefits.