Raising Minimum Wage Could Help The Gender Gap

We can't bid goodbye to the gender gap just yet, but we're getting there: According to a new report, released last week by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women’s earnings in 2012 reveal a slimming-down of the gender gap. And when it comes to part-time jobs, women are now out-earning men. Still, closer examination of the report indicates that we still have quite a way to go.

As for the bizarre news that the gender gap is heading in the opposite direction: for part-time workers who clock in 35 hours or less, women’s weekly earnings are 110 percent of that for men last year. But when it comes to full-timers workers, the gap is alive and kicking: the average female worker earns about 81 percent of what male workers make in the same position. Let's not forget, though, that the average women's earnings have quadrupled since the 70s: the gap is closing. But it's sure taking its sweet time.

D.C. think-take Brookings writes the report is a step in the right direction, “But looking at mobility patterns by gender shows that there is clearly a long way to go before we approach equality.” Basically, while the economic gender gap is lessening, there are still prevalent social factors that are part and parcel of being a woman which make it difficult to break down the gap in full.

Social mobility is harder to crack as a female, indicates research. At the moment, 69 percent of men live in families with higher incomes than ones they grew up with; only 64 percent of women match this. Women also have a harder time getting out of from the lowest household income bracket than men. 47 percent of women born into families in the lowest income category remain there as adults, while that’s only true of 35 percent of men.

Back in June, a report from the National Women Law Center offered one potential solution: raise the federal minimum wage. The report looked at individual states' gender wage-gap, examining what states adhere to the federal law of $7.25, and which ones have state laws requiring employers to pay out more. Of the ten states with the widest gender pay gaps in salary, only two of them had a higher minimum wage than $7.25. On the flip side, seven out of the ten states with the narrowest gaps had implemented a higher wage floor.

So, how is low minimum wage relevant to the gender gap? Well, it’s women who hold the majority of minimum wage jobs. They make up two-thirds of minimum wage workers in the United States, including retail, food service, and housekeepers: 70 percent of restaurant workers and two-thirds of the United States’ total waitstaff are all women.

Increasing the federal minimum wage could provide women with more opportunities to level the playing field. At the moment, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Researchm the gender wage gap isn't expected to close until 2058.

Well, at least our grandkids might stand a chance at seeing some equality.