Op-Ed, 472 words

Scrimping on Women’s Pay

Low-paying jobs are growing faster than decent-paying jobs, and more women than men are getting measly wages.

Martha Burk

Republicans in the Senate blocked a vote on the minimum wage earlier this month — no surprise there. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee was the only Republican who stood aside. But don’t believe the issue is dead. Democrats will make sure that raising the minimum wage and reducing income inequality will be hot topics all the way to Election Day.

President Barack Obama fired the first shot when he used his State of the Union speech in January to announce an increase from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour for federal contract workers. Forcing GOP Senators to vote “no” for the rest of the country’s workers was another volley.

Income Inequality Minimum Wage Women's Rights Low-Paying Jobs Blue Collar


Conservatives claim that raising the minimum will destroy entry level jobs for new workers. You know, teenagers working for gas money and purple hair dye. Sorry — it just ain’t so. The great majority of minimum-wage workers are grown women, and that’s been true for years.

But now things are changing, according to news from the National Women’s Law Center. It’s one of those good-and-bad news situations.

The good news? Unlike men, women have actually regained more jobs than they lost in the recession. Our unemployment rate for April dropped to 5.7 percent, from 6.2 percent in March. The bad news is what we’re earning in those new gigs. Low-wage jobs are growing at a faster rate than decent-paying jobs.

And here’s what everyone should worry about — it’s a downward slide. About 40 percent of new jobs created last year pay less than $14 an hour, twice the rate we saw before the recession.

The researchers say both women and men are being pushed into bottom-rung jobs. But since the great majority of this lousy McWork is done by women, it’s a bigger problem for us than it is for men.

We comprise half the workforce overall, but have three-fourths of the low-wage jobs. Since the start of the recession, over 35 percent of women’s job gains have been in low-wage industries, like retail, fast food and housekeeping. Just 18 percent of men’s new jobs were in those fields.

April’s figures show that this imbalance is only getting worse — more than one in three of the new jobs women secured were in these low-wage industries, as opposed to one in ten for men.

That’s not all.

Not only are women taking lower-paying jobs at a higher rate than men, we’re getting paid less for that work. On average, women working the 10 lowest-paying fields make nearly 10 percent less than men working in the same fields, according to additional National Women’s Law Center research. And the gap can’t be explained away by taking into account any differences in the number of hours that women work compared with men.

Clearly, the GOP’s refusal to raise the minimum wage is just one more skirmish in the war on women.

Martha Burk is the director of the Corporate Accountability Project for the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO) and the author of the book Your Voice, Your Vote: The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Power, Politics, and the Change We Need. Follow Martha on twitter @MarthaBurk.
Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)

  • marvinmcconoughey

    A very good advice for women is to focus their education preparation toward the best paying careers. Engineering, science, math, various technologies: All these tend to pay above average. If women are often discriminated against, then it is better to face, and strive to overcome, that injustice in a field where qualified practitioners are in high demand and the pay is also high.

    Another option, one that many will reject, is to join the military services, preferably as a college degree holding officer. Equal work definitely gets equal pay, all nicely set out in pay charts that are public. During my Air Force service General Jeanne Holms earned not one, but two stars. There are now (2011 data) 69 women generals and the number is likely to rise as more women enter the Air Force. It is possible to have a very fine career without ever attaining the rank of General, but attaining high rank is a possibility. All military services, including the Coast Guard, are open to women.

    There are tough choices to be made. Having children, and especially many children, can affect a career, though contrary examples exist. And, when a male is not chosen for a job advancement one can be sure that sexism is not a factor. When women are not chosen for advancement, the reason can be more difficult to assess. Minorities sometimes face the same puzzle of how to assess cause.