According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, woman in the U.S. are overwhelmingly pessimistic about financial equality in the workplace. The poll found that three-fourths of young women believe that the government needs to do more to make sure that pay and benefits are equivalent, regardless of gender.
Even though American women may be feeling a little bit pessimistic these days, they’ve got quite a reason for some optimism, too.
It was World War II—the deadliest war in history—that caused an incredibly transformative cultural movement. It was a sea change in the traditional roles of women, and this transformation happened simultaneously in countries around the world! Before 1940, the percentage of U.S. women in the work force was below 27%, but in just five years that number had increased to 37%.
Rosie the Riveter became a cultural icon, a symbol that women,
could do more than raise children, cook, clean, and mend. Women could work—and were being asked to work—in professions they’d never before imagined would be possible.
Unfortunately, while women’s numbers in the work place have increased dramatically over the years, their commensurate pay rates have not. By 1980, women were on average making only 64% of what the men were earning. This gender disparity has gradually dwindled over the years until today a Pew research analysis of census data reports that modern young women are starting their working careers with nearly equal parity, making 93% of what the typical young man starts out at.
While the future might be looking bright for young women, there are some dark clouds on the horizon. For the older women in the work place, that initial bright-looking start is often revealed to be a mirage when enough ground has been crossed. By the time women reach their thirties, their relative earnings compared with men begin to fall behind again.
The new Pew Research survey finds that among working parents of all ages with children younger than 18, mothers are three times as likely as fathers to say that being a working parent has made it harder for them to advance in their job or career (51% vs. 16%).
There are some outside factors that explain some of this drop. Primarily motherhood, which can cause lengthy interruptions in a woman’s career due to child birth, as well as the sometimes ineluctable increased unpaid time off required to take care of work necessary at home.
Finally, it must be said, that when it comes to private industry, we’re still living in a man’s world. Most public for-profit corporations have a male CEO, and most of the corporate leaders, from operations, to finance, to PR are headed by men—older men, men who grew up with dad working and mom taking care of the home. Rome wasn’t built in a day and a transformation that began with WWII is not going to be completed overnight, either. Nevertheless, when women have concerns that they’re not being treated fairly in the workplace, there are many options available to them, like Legal Vision, to help solve their problems.
President Obama has recently weighed in on the gender wage gap. “There are great employers out there who do the right thing, and there are plenty of employers out there who are absolutely certain that there’s no pay discrimination happening in their offices, but then sometimes when the data’s laid out, it paints a different picture.”
On April 8, 2014, the president signed an executive order that would force federal contractors to allow their employees to discuss with each other their pay. In addition, he also signed an order that would require these federal contractors to reveal payroll data, indexed by sex and race, to the Labor Department.