Is there a Reverse Wage Gap?


An article in Time magazine yesterday, “Workplace Salaries: At Last, Women on Top,” suggests some interesting news on the gender wage gap. Data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and analyzed by James Chung of Reach Advisors, shows a reverse gender wage gap in the largest U.S. cities by up to 17 percent. But only single, childless women under the age of 30 are out-earning men.

Chung attributes this gap in women’s favor to education. Women college graduates are outpacing men three to two.   He also points out women are better compensated in cities where the primary industry is knowledge-based, where there is a minority majority and where manufacturing has decreased.  

Across the board, women earn, on average, .20 cents less than their male counterparts. It would be wonderful to think women are closing the gap, but unfortunately the Time article points to several disturbing trends. The loss of manufacturing jobs and the low wages for men in minority majority communities isn’t good news for anyone. The fight for fair pay calls for equal wages for equal work. Nobody wins if one gender is underpaid.

And then there is the issue of who is out-earning men: single, childless women. Despite some saying this data proves discrimination is not a factor in the wage gap, choice is, that argument is flawed. How many women do you know who chose to have a family without the involvement of a partner? I know one. And I know hundreds of women who made that choice with a husband or male partner, and a few who made it with a wife.

People choose to have families; but women often care for those families. And yes some women choose to opt out of work and care for the children just because they can. But many women leave the work force or reduce their hours because their husbands earn more than they do and they can’t find affordable childcare. Is that a choice? Technically, but not all choices are created equal.  

It will be interesting to watch two things moving forward. What will happen to the women Time highlights if they do marry and/or have children? And what will happen to men as more women take the breadwinner role? Will they choose to take on more care giving roles and how will those choices affect their careers?

Will they sit in job interviews, like I did, and field the question, “”You have children. Are you sure you’re up for this job?” Will they take time off for the birth of their child with the title Key Account Manager, like a female friend of mine did, and return reassigned to the underperforming accounts no one else wanted? Will their manager assume, like I once did, that they aren’t interested in plum assignments because they have kids?

Only an honest conversation about the realities and needs of work and family will get us to true pay equity. So let’s start talking.

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