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Gender salary gap persists

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There is a wage disparity between the sexes in Missouri, and the gap for women is not shrinking, historically speaking.

A Nov. 30 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics finds that women in Missouri who were full-time wage and salary workers in 2010 earned 75.2 percent of what male employees brought home. This was down roughly 2 percent compared to 2009. Going back to 1997, though, the BLS has consistently reported Missouri’s female workers earned between 74 percent and 81 percent of male workers’ pay.

Across the state in 2010, median weekly earnings for women were $616, compared to the $819 median weekly earnings for men. Nationwide, women last year brought home $669 or 81.2 percent of the $824 median for men. Female workers are gaining ground in the U.S. but slowly, considering women earn about 7 percent more compared to men than they did in 1997.

In 2010, Arkansas reported the lowest wages in the country for either gender – $530 per week for women and $640 per week for men – while Connecticut posted the highest, $835 and $1,101, respectively.

Stephanie Bryant, dean of the College of Business Administration at Missouri State University, said the types of business in this region play a role in the gender wage divide. Women, for example, may be more inclined to pursue a career within a service industry versus a high-tech field.

“If you look at the types of industries that are prevalent in Missouri, for example, you have things like the service industry, retail, hospitality and health services. Those are areas that attract more women than men on average,” Bryant said.

Generally, she said three factors contribute to a disparity in wages: industry, experience and education. However, Bryant said the gap in earnings between men and women is virtually nonexistent in jobs with low levels of pay, and it widens considerably with higher paying positions.  

“The real differences emerge at $100,000 and above,” she said. “The real question is, ‘Why is there a gender gap on the higher end?’”   

In 2009, an analysis by PayScale.com, a Web site that tracks self-reported wage data so that workers can see what others in similar positions earn, found a noticeable wage disparity between genders. The analysis focused on 90 jobs that represented a cross-section of positions of equal interest by gender. For example, the national median pay for male CEOs was $187,000 per year, while the pay for female CEOs was $105,000; male sales directors earned salaries of $132,000 per year, and females earned $77,800; and hospital administrators who were men garnered an annual pay of $108,000, and women in the same job drew $75,300.

Nancy Bass, president of the Springfield Area Human Resources Association, said income disparity is not prevalent among the group’s 200 members, 80 percent of whom are women.

Bass said data she’s familiar with is not broken down by gender but wages vary greatly in the human resources field depending on the size of the firm.

“I think most organizations pay based on the position and not based on a person’s sex. But I do think that sometimes women might not negotiate as much for salaries as men do,” Bass said. “I think that they should.”

Bryant, who has a background in accounting, agreed with Bass.

“I can tell you with some assurance that accounting firms don’t make different offers based on gender,” she said.

She said she doesn’t believe the average female student is concerned about wage disparity, probably because there is a general feeling out there that the earnings gap is closing.

“Women are definitely catching up,” Bryant said. “With the closing of the gap, I think the economy may have slowed that down a little bit, but I think in time it will largely go away.”[[In-content Ad]]

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