Even with Narrowing Pay Gap, Women Struggle for Equality


NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Despite increases toward pay equality, Millennial women still feel they're working in a man's world. Findings published by the Pew Research Center this past Wednesday found 75% of Millennial females polled believe America needs to continue making changes in the workplace in order to achieve full gender equality. Comparatively, only 57% of Gen Y men think the country needs to keep working towards gender equality. Women also see having children as another hindrance to having an ascending career.

But when asked about pay equality in their own workplace, the majority of working adults polled said they saw no gender biases with 73% of men and 72% of women seeing the same career advancement opportunities for both sexes. In reality, women in high-ranking positions made up only 24% of all CEO positions in America in 2011, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. When it comes to some of the highest-ranking jobs in America, women make up only 4.5% of Fortune 1000 CEO positions, according to numbers cited in the Pew Research report.

On the upswing, the pay gap is narrowing significantly. In 2012, women's hourly wages were 93% of men's in the 25 to 34 age group, up from 83% in 1990, according to Pew Research. Millennial women are also becoming more likely than previous generations to seek upper management positions. While 47% of Gen X women compared to 59% of Gen X men have actively sought promotions, the gap is now closing. Now, 42% of women and 48% of men seek promotion in their career.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle women face in an upward career path is having children, especially when compared with men. A big slice — 51% — of women say having a child under 18 makes career advancement more difficult, while only 16% of men agreed. Additionally, women are more likely than men to take off time to care for a child or family member, and mothers are twice as more likely than fathers to quit their job to do so. Short guaranteed maternity leave and no guarantee of paid time off in America likely exacerbate career mobility for women.

America ranked dead last in another Pew Research report that ranked 38 nations in government-supported assistance for new parents. Of those countries, America is the only nation to offer no guaranteed paid leave for new parents. While America does offer protected leave, it's paltry compared to other nations, and equals Mexico in its offer of "the smallest amount of leave protection related to the birth of a child among these 38 countries," according to the report. Additionally, 25 of those 38 countries offer guaranteed paternity leave, although for not as long as maternity leave. The median protected, paid time off for maternity leave for all countries is between five and six months.

--Written by Craig Donofrio for MainStreet

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