Working women in the United States are more educated, working in a greater variety of fields, and earning more than their counterparts did 40 years ago, but they still lag behind men in many measures, according to a recent report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics examining gender in the workforce.
The proportion of the female civilian workforce with four years of college or more has grown about 30 percentage points since 1970. Wages have grown, too. In 1979, when the median weekly earnings for women workers was $182, about 62 percent of what their male counterparts made. In 2013, US women made a median weekly salary of $706 to men’s $860, a pay disparity of about 82 percent.
Education and earnings may go hand-in-hand; women with a college degree or higher made nearly double the weekly paycheck of those with only a high school diploma earned in 2013.
The narrowing wage gap can also be linked to women achieving more work experience. Today, American women are employed in a wider array of positions and contribute to their total household earnings at increased rates, the bureau’s report found.
But working women’s gains have not caught up to — or even held up against — men’s.
As women earn more by being better educated, so too do men. In some cases, education exacerbates the wage gap. Women with a doctoral degree made 77 percent of what men with the same level of education earned in 2013 — 5 percentage points less than the overall pay disparity.
And career choice is often attributed to the gender wage gap, too.
Though women accounted for 51 percent of workers in management and professional positions in 2013, they remain the minority in some of the most lucrative occupations, the report found.
In 2013, women made up 75 percent of education and health services employees, but only 33 percent of lawyers, 36 percent of physicians and surgeons, and 27 percent of chief executives in 2013.
Within many of those fields, women make significantly less than their male counterparts. A female physician makes 71 percent of what a male one does, according to Harvard University research reported in The New York Times
One popular explanation for the wage gap is that women tend to work fewer hours than men. In 2013, women worked 36 hours per week, compared to 40.9 hours for men, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But while occupation choice and hours worked may be factors in the current wage gap, they do not make up for the full difference between men’s and women’s salaries.
Research from the American Association of University Women found that even when accounting for education, work experience, and hours worked, there is still a 7 percent difference in earnings between college-educated men and women one year after graduation. Among full-time workers who are 10 years out of college, that gap is 12 percent.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated how occupation choice and hours affect the gender wage gap.