Gender pay gap widens

Most workers in Houston are familiar with a pay gap between men and women in the workforce. Many claim that the pay gap has narrowed in recent years, but a new study shows that the gap may be worse than is traditionally thought.

A study was recently conducted by a women's research group specializing in pay gap issues. The group focused its research on blocks of time, each block spanning 15 years. The research was based on total earnings over the blocks of time rather than annual earnings.

The results were startling. According to the group, between 1968 and 1982, women made only 19 percent of men's wages over that period. From 1983 to 1997, women's wages increased to 38 percent of men's. Of the most recent block, women earned 49 percent compared to their male counterparts. Even in the most recent time frame, women's total earnings were less than half of men's.

The research group concluded that a major reason for the large disparity in income is the time taken off work for child care or care of another person. According to the group's research, more than 40 percent of women took a year off while less than one quarter of men had a year without earnings. For those not working, 39 percent of women cited care of another as the reason for unemployment. Less than 3 percent of unemployed men cited the same reason. One economist has referred to the disparity as a "care chasm."

When companies provide longer paid maternity leave or leave for the care of another, the gender income gap should narrow further. If social norms shift and more males become the primary care giver for a child or other person, the gap will lessen.

For women who are paid less than men for doing the same job, a gender discrimination claim may be in order. An experienced employment law attorney may explain the rights of the female worker to equal pay.

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