Women continue to earn less — but picture is slightly brighter in Chatham

Posted 3/29/19

A recent study on employment and earnings shows a 19 percent gap in pay between women and their male counterparts in North Carolina — ranking the state 32nd in the nation in that regard.

In …

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Women continue to earn less — but picture is slightly brighter in Chatham

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A recent study on employment and earnings shows a 19 percent gap in pay between women and their male counterparts in North Carolina — ranking the state 32nd in the nation in that regard.

In Chatham County, however, the numbers are slightly better: in overall average wages, for every dollar a man earns in Chatham County, a woman makes 87 cents, compared to 81 cents statewide.

The Status of Women in North Carolina: Employment and Earnings, a report produced in 2018 by North Carolina’s Council for Women and Youth Involvement in conjunction with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, shows an even greater disparity in pay between men and women who have bachelor’s degrees. In North Carolina and in Chatham, the numbers are identical: for every dollar in compensation a man earns, a woman earns just 67 cents.

The report also notes that based on the rate of increases to women’s wages, pay parity will not exist in North Carolina for women until 2060.

“If working women in North Carolina were paid the same as comparable to men, the increase would amount to $15.6 billion, which is equivalent to 3 percent of the state’s GDP in 2016,” the report states.

The report notes that while American families are becoming more dependent on women’s earnings for economic security, men out-earn women in every state. Two-thirds of mothers with children under 5 years of age are in the labor force in North Carolina and nearly three-quarters of mothers with children under 18 work. About 36 percent of families are with a single-parent, with a majority of those being a single mother. The National Center for Children in Poverty estimates that 54 percent of children from low-income families live with a single parent. This makes the disparity even more disconcerting as significant numbers of children are being raised with wages that are far below what a man would earn.

“It’s important to understand that women are not the only ones missing out,” Council for Women and Youth Involvement Executive Director Mary Williams-Stover said. “Families are missing out. Our economy is missing out. This is not a women’s issue.”

Education doesn’t close the gap, she said.

“More women are seeking higher degrees. Education does lead to higher earnings, but education does not eliminate the wage gap.”

Williams-Stover noted that pay disparity isn’t the only struggle women in the workforce bear.

“We listen to women, mostly women with advanced degrees,” she said about listening sessions the department performs. “They all have stories about wage disparities, discrimination, challenges in the work place, being discouraged by managers. It’s important to hear their stories so we can work to find solutions.

“What kind of place do we want North Carolina to be?” Williams-Stover said. “If we want it to be a place that’s prosperous, closing the wage gap is a way of accomplishing that.”

Williams-Stover notes that what their advocates are hearing is that women need to practice to advocate for themselves. This includes learning how to negotiate with managers for pay equity. But she also notes that transparency in hiring and wage information in the workplace would provide an opportunity for women to make the argument for fair wages.

For five straight years, bills have been filed at the North Carolina General Assembly in Raleigh asking for the state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment without either houses leadership permitting a vote on it to come to the floor. The ERA prohibits discrimination based on sex, including disparities in pay, but in order for it to be considered as an amendment to the Constitution, it requires passage from 38 states. If North Carolina passed the ERA, it would be that 38th state.

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