By Renae Reints
November 29, 2018

The gender wage gap is significantly wider than previously thought: women today earn less than half of what men do in a 15-year period.

In 2016, women reportedly earned 80 cents to the average man’s dollar. However, according to a new report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a woman today earns just 49 cents compared to the average man’s dollar.

The drastic change in numbers can be attributed to the study’s inclusion of time off for family or childcare, says the report released on Monday. The study, which examines women’s income between 2001 through 2015, concludes that women are more penalized than men when they take time off of work.

“Among women workers in this study, 43% had at least one year with no earnings, while only 23% of men did, indicating that being out of work for a year is still a common experience for women but unusual for men,” the study says.

This time off can greatly affect a woman’s career. Women who took one year off from work had annual earnings 39% lower than women who worked all 15 years (an increase from the 12% pay cut seen for a year off between 1968 and 1982), the study says.

While men also see losses for time off, the report adds, women who do the same have a tougher time.

To even the playing field, the report states policies like paid family and medical leave, plus affordable child care, can “increase women’s labor force participation and encourage men to share more of the unpaid time spent on family care.” According to an estimate from the National Study of Employers, just 15% of employers provide paternity leave as of 2016, compared to the 58% that provides maternity leave.

It’s not all bad news, though. After adjusting for inflation, the wage gap has still significantly tightened since 1968. And, the average woman’s income between 2001 and 2015 was almost $29,000, compared to $14,000 in the period from 1968 to 1982—an earnings growth of 99%, the study cites.

To continue to see these types of increases, the report stresses the need for more enforced equal employment opportunity policies, such as the federal Title IX law in education, that allows women to enter higher-paying fields.

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