Houston Recognizes Equal Pay Day: A Call for Progress on the Gender Wage Gap

#EqualPayDay: Understanding the gender wage gap

Current Pay Gap

On Equal Pay Day, Houston recognizes the persistent challenge of the gender wage gap (KPRC interview with Dr. Gregory). The 2023 U.S. Census reveals ongoing disparity: nationally, women employed full-time still earn only 84 cents for every dollar earned by men, on average. This 16-cent difference translates to women requiring roughly three additional months of work to achieve the annual earnings of their male counterparts.

The gender wage gap transcends mere statistics. It represents entrenched inequalities impacting women on a daily basis. Professor Elizabeth Gregory of the University of Houston IRWGS sheds light on the gap's multifaceted nature. Occupational segregation, where women are often concentrated in lower-paying caregiving professions, is a significant factor. Limited opportunities for promotion, along with stereotypes about women's work-life balance, and outdated notions of a male “family wage” also play in.

The pay gap also intersects with race and age, creating even greater disparities. Within Harris County, the data paints a stark picture: white women earn 75 cents, Asian women 71 cents, Black women 55 cents, and Hispanic women 41 cents on the dollar compared to the county’s highest-earners, non-Hispanic white men. In Texas and the US as a whole, Asian men are the highest earners. These figures highlight the intricate web of disparities within the workforce.

Addressing the gender wage gap requires advocating for policies that promote affordable childcare infrastructure and expand women's access to traditionally male-dominated, higher-paying jobs in fields like construction. Additionally, empowering women to negotiate fair salaries at the outset of their careers is critical. Programs like AAUW’s Start Smart equip individuals, regardless of gender, with the skills and knowledge to negotiate effectively and secure equitable wages.

While progress has been made over time, the pace of change remains slow. Continued awareness, advocacy, and concrete policy actions are essential to narrowing the gender wage gap and building a more equitable workforce for all.

Stay tuned for our IRWGS 2024 Update on the Economics of Gender in Houston, in April.