Women gaining an edge on men in the workplace with some setbacks says Pew official

By Beth Reece

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Women make up almost 47 percent of the American workforce and the gender-wage gap is narrowing, a Pew Research Center official told McNamara Headquarters Complex employees March 20 during a Women’s History Month observance.

“Women in 2017 made 82 cents on every dollar that men made. The gender gap really has narrowed significantly if you look back to 1980, when women were only making 64 cents on the dollar to men,” said Kim Parker, director of social trends research for Pew.

The center studies trends using data collected by a randomly, nationally represented panel of 12,000 people. Despite women’s progress, Parker said it doesn’t appear that women will ever make up half of the workforce.

“Women’s labor force participation grew steadily in the 70s, 80s and 90s but has really leveled off since 2000,” she said, adding that the number of men has actually fallen. “A big part of that is driven by men without a college degree who have really struggled in recent decades as the economy has changed and adapted to an information-based economy.”

Higher educational gains have propelled women into a stronger position, and young workers are doing better in relation to their male counterparts than women overall, she said.

“Each group of young women that’s gone into the workforce has had a little bit stronger position than the group before it. But interestingly, about 10 years into their career, women’s wages relative to men start to decline,” she continued.

That’s when women typically start having children and work fewer hours while men work more. After one child, men generally work 42 hours a week on average versus 27 for women, Parker said. The gap widens with each additional child.

Men now have more access to parental leave than ever, but among those surveyed, men had taken an average of one week of parental leave in the past two years while women took average of 11 weeks. Women were also asked whether they believed taking parental leave had a positive, negative or neutral impact on their careers. Many said it had no impact, but women were twice as likely as men to say it had a negative impact whereas men said it had a positive impact on their careers.

Women have a greater presence in managerial positions compared to the 80s, but face obstacles moving into leadership, Parker said.

“Women have to do more to prove themselves than men do,” she added. “Another major reason was that women face gender discrimination in the workplace. And we saw few people saying family responsibilities were holding women back.”
Respondents believe that while men and women have different leadership styles, neither style trumps the other. Some strengths women bring to the workplace include compassion, honesty, tendency to value diversity and people with different backgrounds, and the ability to compromise. However, men were thought by some to be more likely to take risks, excel under pressure and negotiate profitable deals.

The growth in demand for social and analytical skills – areas where women slightly outnumber men – could bode well for women, Parker added.

“There’s so little emphasis and growth in physical and manual skills, and social and analytical skills seem to be areas where women can compete on a more level playing field,” she said.