Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Pay Gap Narrows, but It's Far from Closed

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Pay Gap Narrows, but It's Far from Closed

Article excerpt

HOUSTON -- Just a few years ago, H. Joan Ehrlich, director of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Houston, wore a button that said "59 cents," which was what women earned for every $1 that men earned.

Yet, women still earn less than men: 74 cents for every $1.

If the wage gap closed today, the average woman would earn $4,229 more each year, according to a recent study, "Equal Pay for Working Families: National and State Data on the Pay Gap and Its Costs" by the AFL-CIO and the Institute for Women's Policy Research. And though it's not as hot an issue as it once was, equal pay remains a big issue. Ehrlich said she has about six cases pending involving employers who appear to be paying their male employees higher salaries than their female colleagues. It's also an issue that has caught the attention of the Clinton administration, which has proposed giving the EEOC an extra $14 million to hire investigators to handle Equal Pay Act violations. Employers often contend they pay women less because their previous salary was lower, Ehrlich said. And pay scales are often arbitrary: "Many times we take a look and there is no justification." The pay gap is largely a hidden problem, Ehrlich said. Employers make sure pay scales are kept secret. And when a woman finds out she earns a lot less than a man in the same job, she's scared to complain for fear she'll lose her job. The problem is even worse for women who work in such female- dominated occupations as nursing and teaching, according to the AFL- CIO report, which used household income data gathered by the Census Bureau to build a model. Women in those female wage ghettos earn an average of $3,446 less a year than women who work in male-dominated jobs. That's bad enough, but the real pity should go to the men who end up in the female wage ghettos -- they earn a whopping $6,259 a year less than their male counterparts in male-dominated occupations. That's nothing new to Gayle Fallon, who said that women make up 72 percent of the teaching profession. There is still a mindset that women are the second-income earners, said Fallon, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers. …

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