By Victoria Holloway
Audra Coffman, a mom of four and a full-time web producer for Fox 34, was glad she had the chance to stay home with her children for several years.
But she is also thankful for having a career now.
“Now that (my kids) are a little older, I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to go back to school and have a job that I love, so I can contribute something to society more than just scrubbing toilets and changing diapers,” said Coffman, who is a graduate of the Texas Tech College of Media & Communication.
Returning to work required an adjustment, she said, but the workplace was welcoming of her.
“I’ve seen a change in culture, where it’s accepted that women can have a job and take care of their kids,” Coffman said. “It’s something we’ve had to prove to people: women can do it all.”
History suggests much indeed has changed for working women in the last century. To view an interactive timeline of women’s progress in the workplace, click this picture.
As a mom, Coffman finds it helpful that her company is flexible with allowing her to leave to pick up her children from school. Her husband also helps, which is part of the changing culture.
“Men are now taking on a more active role in the family,” she said.
However, having a full-time job and being a mom can be challenging, she said. For example, Coffman would like to be a full-time reporter but isn’t able to because that job doesn’t allow for as much flexibility as her current position.
A job’s time flexibility or its lack can be tied to earnings.
Coffman said she personally hasn’t noticed any pay gap between men and women in the places where she has worked. However, one of the reasons the gender wage gap still exists, she suggests, could be because hiring managers subconsciously expect less productivity from women, whose work schedules are more likely to be interrupted by pregnancy and caretaking.
Julie Anderson, a research associate for the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in Washington D.C., agrees the gender wage gap still exists because men and women are going into different occupations. Women tend to choose lower-paying occupations because higher-paying occupations don’t have good family work policies.
“If they have to take care of young children or an elderly parent, women may be choosing those jobs for their flexibility,” Anderson said.
However, she believes this is changing because of the rising number of young women who are getting college degrees and entering into higher-paying jobs.
But the pay gap between women and men is still not projected to close until 2047 in Texas and 2058 overall in the United States.
A survey of women between 18 and 32 shows 60 percent believe men generally earn more and 75 percent think more changes are needed in the workplace to create equality, according to the Pew Research Center.
But not just Millennial women believe such changes are necessary. Sixty-seven percent of women and men between the ages of 18 and 65 say there is a need to continue making changes to bring equality in the workplace.