The Pink Ghetto Problem: Escape or Repaint?

By Victoria Landers

Danielle Corley quoteWomen make on average 79 cents to each dollar men make,  and in some occupations, that gap is much greater.

Although the gap is getting smaller, the difference between men’s and women’s earnings has seen some fluctuation for the past 40-plus years.

The graph that shows the projection of the wage gap. Screen captured from the Institute for Women's Policy Research website.

The graph that shows the projection of the wage gap.
Screen captured from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research website.

“Today, the largest factors contributing to the wage gap are industry and occupation,” said Danielle Corley, research assistant for the Center for American Progress.

Occupations dominated by women are often referred to as “pink-collar jobs” or “pink ghetto” because they are less appreciated than occupations dominated by men.

Corley, who studies women’s economic security for the center, projects the gender wage gap will not close until 2059.

“The gap has been closing slowly — I think it was about 60 cents for every dollar in the 70s — however, the progress for this day and age in our country is just too slow, especially the way it affects real people’s lives,” Corley said.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks earnings by gender for more than 500 occupations. As of 2015, there are only five occupations in which women are paid slightly more than men, as presented in the infographic below.

By contrast, there are many more occupations in which make more than women. In the top five occupations with the largest wage gap, which are also presented in an infographic below, the wage gap is almost 50 cents to the dollar.

Infographic created by Victoria Landers.

Infographic created by Victoria Landers.

Infographic created by Victoria Landers.

Infographic created by Victoria Landers.

“This has consequences not just for women’s earnings, but for families’ economic security,” Corley said. “In 2012, 63 percent of women were sole primary or co-breadwinners for their household. So families’ really count on women’s earnings to be able to send their kids to school, pay for childcare, college, health care. It really affects families.”

Corley said the gender wage gap is even larger for women of color.

“Hispanic women earn just 55 cents for every dollar earned by a white man, and African-American women earn just 60 cents for every dollar earned by a white, non-Hispanic man,” she said.

But unlike some who are heavily affected by the wage gap, Elena Ilyushyna, a financial advisor for Merrill Lynch, thinks the gap is completely normal.

Women financial advisors make 59.4 percent of the earnings men do according to the 2015 data conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“I know it’s true, but from what I read the problem is that women are not as aggressive or as persistent as men in raising capital,” Ilyushyna said.

Ilyushyna is on a team of four financial advisors at Merrill Lynch, and she is the only woman. She is also the only woman among the five chartered financial analysts (CFA) in the city of Lubbock, after taking an exam she described as a “very tough exam to pass.”

elena ilyushina

Elena Ilyushina, CFA. Picture from LinkedIn.

Born and raised in Russia, Ilyushina moved to the U.S. in 2012 after accepting her first job at Merrill Lynch. She said she believes America is the place of progress and there is no one to blame for being paid less than someone who can do better work.

“I knew very well what I was getting into, and other than my own abilities, I don’t feel any obstacles at work,” she said. “I feel very much encouraged, especially by the team because we’re all interested in each other succeeding. I get a piece of what they bring, and they get a piece of what I bring.”

Equal Pay Day, which was on April 12, represents the additional time it would take the average full-time working woman to earn as much as the average man did in the previous year.

“Women would have to work until April 12 of this year to earn what men did in the previous calendar year,” Corley said. “It really illustrates a point that makes the difference real to people. It’s not just a number, it’s extra time as well.”

Equal Pay Day not only raised awareness, but also highlighted some new findings about the wage gap.

Research by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research had found that occupations dominated by women tend to pay substantially less than male-dominated occupations at similar skill levels. Workers in occupations dominated by women earn just 66 percent of workers in occupations dominated by men—which is substantially worse than the current 79-cent gap.

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, about half of the gender wage gap can be explained by “occupational segregation,” or the tendency for certain industries to be heavily dominated by one gender or the other.

The concept reveals that what Americans see “women’s work” often includes child care. More than 30 percent of Americans in 2014 still believed women should stay home full time to care for their children, according to a Pew Research Center report.

New York Times article by Claire Cain Miller argues there is “substantial evidence that employers placed a lower value on work done by women.”

“It just doesn’t look like it’s as important to the bottom line or requires as much skill,” a researcher told Miller. “Gender bias sneaks into those decisions.”

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