Equal Pay Fight

March 20, 1981

Report Outline
Presistent Earnings Gap
Demand for Pay Equity
Government Initiatives
Future of Pay Equity Issue
Special Focus

Presistent Earnings Gap

Link between Wages and Job Segregation

Green and white buttons marked “59¢” have been much in evidence at women's-rights gatherings in recent years. The buttons are part of a campaign begun by the National Organization for Women (NOW) to call attention to the fact that a woman, on average, makes only 59 cents for every dollar earned by a man. Women working full time, year-round in 1979, the latest year for which statistics are available, had median annual earnings of $10,168 compared to $17,062 for full-time male workers. The difference between men's and women's pay is actually wider today than it was in 1963 — the year the federal Equal Pay Act was enacted. Women earn substantially less than men at the same level of education. In fact, the average woman college graduate earns less than the average male high school dropout.

Many factors are cited to explain the persistent wage gap between the sexes. The significant rise in the number and proportion of women who work has meant more women in entry-level jobs. Because of their family responsibilities many women prefer jobs that require little or no overtime. In addition, women generally have fewer years of work experience than men. But by far the most important factor in women's lower earnings is their continued concentration in low-paying, low-status jobs.

Although women now comprise 42 percent of the nation's labor force, nearly 80 percent of them are employed in clerical, sales, service, factory or plant jobs. More than a third of all women workers hold clerical jobs, which pay on average less than $10,000 a year. Only 16 percent of the women are classified as professionals and most of them are elementary and secondary school teachers, nurses, health technicians or librarians. Of the 40.4 million women workers in 1979, only 6.4 percent were managers. Of the 56.5 million men employed that year, 14 percent were managers.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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Nov. 08, 2019  The Gender Pay Gap
Oct. 27, 2017  Workplace Sexual Harassment
Jul. 26, 2013  Women and Work
Apr. 14, 2006  Future of Feminism
Apr. 04, 2003  Mothers' Movement
Sep. 25, 1992  Women in the Military
May 10, 1985  Women's Economic Equity
Jul. 10, 1981  Women in the Military
Mar. 20, 1981  Equal Pay Fight
Jul. 04, 1980  Women in the Executive Suite
Jul. 13, 1979  Two-Income Families
Feb. 18, 1977  Women in the Work Force
Feb. 13, 1957  Woman's Place in the Economy
Apr. 22, 1944  Women Workers After the War
Jan. 26, 1942  Women in War Work
Jul. 13, 1926  Sex Equality and Protective Laws
Women in the Workplace