Some things better, some worse for working women, survey finds

Hourly wage nearly equals that of men, but not salary

October 01, 2003|By CBS MARKETWATCH

SAN FRANCISCO - Women's hourly pay nearly matches men's, fathers are spending more time with their children and employees report more family-friendly workplaces. To some, it sounds like a near-perfect world.

But wait: Women's annual salaries still lag, couples are working longer hours, and more employees say it's now difficult to balance family and work, according to the latest National Study of the Changing Workforce. The survey is conducted every five years by the Families and Work Institute, a nonprofit research group.

"The net is that some things have gotten better but some things have gotten worse, and individual workers are paying a bit of a price," said Ellen Galinsky, the institute's president.

Women's average hourly wage is $19.16, not far off men's $22.29, according to the telephone survey of 3,500 working Americans of all income levels, age 18 and older.

Compare that with the $15.05 average hourly garnered by women vs. the $21.38 earned by men in 1997.

The wage gain is based in part on women's increasing participation in management-level and professional jobs, which is in turn due to more women in the work force, their higher levels of education and corporate America's push to break the glass ceiling, Galinsky said.

But while the hourly outlook has improved, women's annual salaries still fall short of men's. Women earn $36,716 on average each year compared with $52,908 for men, according to the study.

The reasons for that disparity are many, but the top two drivers are that more women engage in part-time work and, overall, work fewer hours than men, Galinsky said.

Twenty-four percent of women work a part-time job, compared with 9 percent of men, and overall, women work an average of about 40 hours a week to men's 46 hours.

Not many would argue with the idea that the more hours you work, the more you should be paid, but Galinsky points out that there's still a hidden bias in the workplace: The base salary for a part-time worker is often lower than the base salary of a full-time worker.

"We've had a perception of part-time or more flexible jobs as second-class jobs and they are clearly paid accordingly," she said, adding that performance should play a greater part in salary levels, as opposed to simply full- and part-time status.

As men make inroads into the child-care and housework arena, that negative perception of flex- and part-time work may change.

"It will certainly become a more socially acceptable conversation to have," Galinsky said. "If he's going to take time off to take care of his elderly mother, then his question will be: `Certainly I should be paid for my hours, but should my whole salary drop? Should I move into a second-class job?' "

Men now spend 2.7 hours on average with their children on weekdays, up from 1.9 hours in 1977, among dual-wage households, according to the report.

Meanwhile, women's time with kids on workdays rose slightly to 3.5 hours from 3.3 in 1977.

The combined 6.2 hours of kid time is up from the 5.2 hours spent with kids in 1977.

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