By Mara Lee
Most of the 78 cents on the dollar that women earn is because working women tend to cluster in low-paying fields. Think cashier rather than construction worker, nurse’s aide rather than welder, secretary rather than systems administrator, teacher rather than engineer.
Still, even within the same fields, unless union representation makes salary bands or hourly rates predictable and transparent, men earn more.
After controlling for hours worked, experience and time off to raise children, men still make at least 5 percent more, and maybe 10 percent more.
The report says that researchers have determined there are two reasons for that disparity: women don’t negotiate salary offers as often as men, and there may be subtle biases among bosses, even ones they don’t realize they have.
The report gives an example of a study of students graduating from Carnegie Mellon with master’s degrees, which found that 57 percent of men negotiated salary offers and 7 percent of women did. The men’s salaries were 7.6 percent higher than the women. And that $4,000 was almost the exact amount more that people who negotiated were paid compared to those who didn’t.
The authors of the report conducted several focus groups, and a business owner told of a similar story. A woman accepted an engineering job offer without negotiating, and a few years later, a male engineer with the same experience she had at the time she was hired chose to negotiate. When he did, he was earning close to what she was making after a couple years of raises.
So the report, a collaboration by the Connecticut Department of Labor and Department of Economic and Community Development, suggests that colleges should teach students, particularly women, “how to leverage their market value in the private sector by negotiating their salaries and starting positions.”
It also suggests that the state government coordinate with charities that are encouraging girls to explore non-traditional occupations, particularly in the higher-paid science fields. (Biology, which is a female-dominated major, is not a predictor of strong earnings. Computer science and engineering are.)
The report also recommended that businesses conduct unconscious bias training sessions to try and change how women’s actions are scrutinized differently than men, and to change mentoring dynamics.
Women who work in Hartford County have the smallest wage gap — perhaps because of the large unionized state workforce — and the largest gap is in Fairfield County, where women earn 63 cents on the dollar.
That may be because of the patterns of “super earners,” as we explained in an earlier article on this topic. For instance, the top 10 percent of female lawyers earn $200,000 or more; the top 10 percent of male lawyers earn $300,000 or more.
Teresa Younger, the executive director of the state’s Permanent Commission on the Status on the Status of Women, was on the task force that did the study. She said, “This report is a good first step, but no one is under any delusions its recommendations will solve the decades-long problem of pay inequity.”
But she praised the fact that the report suggests that the government develops metrics to monitor future progress — and ask state contractors to report on their own salaries by gender.