Though women are returning to the U.S. labor force in greater numbers this year than in the past seven, women who are between 25 and 34 years old are slipping when it comes to pay equality with men, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show. Millennial women might be worse off than their mothers, as progress for women’s well-being overall is being stalled according to a study by the Population Reference Bureau.
Women made just under 89 cents on a man’s dollar in 2016, bringing it down from the highest point of 92 cents in 2011, bringing the gender gap in average weekly earnings to its most disparate in seven years.
The rapid increase in participation of women in the workforce can be attributed to many things, from the rise of feminism to the advent of household appliances which mitigated traditional ‘roles’ of women in a post World War II era. For this reason, the exacerbation of inequality is unexpected, given female millennials are very well educated and encounter far less barriers to the workforce than in any prior generation. This could be accounted for by the poor men’s wages in recent years says Heidi Shierholz, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington and a former Labor Department chief economist during Barack Obama’s administration. According to a Bloomberg report, Shierholz states “men just had been losing ground, and instead are doing better now.”
There are employment factors that need be taken into account when accurately assessing the gender pay gap, from the lower-paying industries and occupations that women tend to infiltrate, such as working as assistants in the health industry to cashiers in grocery stores, to the slightly less on-the-job experience that women tend to hold than men. While progress across these factors is being seen as women become more pronounced in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields as per an analysis by Federal Reserve economists, the needle is taking a long time to budge.
Women also continue to dominate in the private sphere, where according to Mother Jones, women do 80 minutes more ‘domestic duties’ than men. This, in conjunction with their nature to pick up more ‘unpaid jobs’ around the workplace, has led to millennial women tending to burn out, which could add to the myriad factors that could account for why the wage gap continues to grow. This is not for a significant increase in the efforts of companies to become more diverse and attract a workforce that reflects this, from physical initiatives such as the “Etsy Hacker Grants”, from the consciousness shift that no longer allows for anti-diversity in the workplace, as seen most recently and drastically in the Google memo saga. As this push for change continues and becomes more evident, there is hope the gender gap may soon become a historical reference rather than an everyday reality.