Women Closing Wage Gap

By Love, Alice Ann | THE JOURNAL RECORD, June 10, 1998 | Go to article overview

Women Closing Wage Gap


Love, Alice Ann, THE JOURNAL RECORD


WASHINGTON -- After several years in which women lost ground in their battle for pay parity with men, the wage gap between the sexes is narrowing again.

The earnings gap between men and women has closed by about 3 cents on the dollar since spring 1997 -- improvement the Clinton administration is chalking up to low unemployment and recent increases in the minimum wage.

"We do think that this is a real improvement and it's due to the strong economy," said Rick McGahey, the Labor Department's assistant secretary for policy. "There are better jobs opportunities out there. All workers are improving their situation." Since women tend to be concentrated in the lowest-paying jobs, 1996 and 1997 raises in the minimum wage from $4.25 to $5.15 an hour also have helped boost their earning power compared with men, McGahey said. In the 12 months ending March 31, the median weekly wage for women working full time grew 6.6 percent to $455, according to the Labor Department. Meanwhile, men's wages grew much more slowly during the same period -- just 2.4 percent to $596. As a result, women earned 76 cents for every dollar men made in the first quarter of 1998, compared with 73 cents during the same period a year earlier. That follows four years when women's wages slipped slightly compared to men's, from a high of 77 cents on the dollar in 1993. President Clinton was expected to tout the recovery at a White House event today commemorating the Equal Pay Act signed by President Kennedy in 1963, outlawing wage discrimination. Pay discrimination still exists, McGahey said, but "as women get more experience in the work force and better education we think the gap will continue to close." The administration is urging Congress to pass legislation that would make it easier for equal pay cases to proceed as class actions and allow compensatory and punitive damages. …

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