Family Obligations Widen Gender Pay Gap
It’s no secret there’s a gender pay gap; women have long been paid disproportionately less than men for the same type of work. While inroads have been made, personal choices and differing priorities, coupled with family caregiving obligations, mean most women still earn less than their male counterparts.
Understanding the Gap in Pay
A working paper published by a pair of Harvard University economists examined the reasons for the inequality in pay. The data was culled from seven years’ worth of information involving 3,011 Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority full-time workers. Bottom line? Even in a unionized environment with similar tasks and identical wages, women still earned only $.89 to every man’s $1.00. There were several key reasons for this:
- Men worked 83 percent more overtime hours than women and were more likely to accept an overtime shift on short notice.
- Half as many women took overtime work when offered compared to men.
- Men took 48 percent fewer unpaid hours off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) every year.
- Women bus and train operators were more likely to accept less-desirable routes in exchange for working fewer nights, weekends, and holidays.
These statistics demonstrate the effects of family obligations on women’s pay. Men with children coveted the extra cash earned by working overtime more so than those who were not fathers, while women with children placed more value on time off. The difference was especially pronounced among single parents; unmarried mothers were 59 percent less likely to accept last-minute overtime work compared with unmarried fathers. This is not surprising given that childcare responsibilities still fall largely on women.
One solution to closing the gap might be to institute shift swapping and other strategies to help improve schedule flexibility and develop a better system of planning for overtime so employees have more advance notice.
Attitudes need to change, as well. Despite evolving mores, many employers still promote traditional if outdated concepts such as long, continuous hours rather than flexible workplace schedules, which negatively affects women with children the most. Taking time off from work to attend to childcare issues still falls more on women than men, and that hurts their earnings.