Apr 4, 2017

By the numbers: The gender pay gap is slowly closing

Today is Equal Pay Day — the day that represents how long into the year women have to work to make as much money as their male counterparts did the year before, according to the National Committee on Pay Equity. We've rounded up the numbers — good news and bad news — along with the defense and critique of the gender wage gap.

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios
Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

The good news: The gap is closing.

  • Women earned 81% of what men earned in 2015, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to Pew, they earn 83% — a 19% increase since 1980, .
  • Young women (25 to 34) earned 90% of what men the same age earned in 2015.
  • Women are expected to make up more than half of the work force by 2018, according to BLS.
  • More than 450,000 women were "Chief Executive" in 2016, according to BLS, and there are 9.1 million women-owned businesses in the U.S. which make up more than 7% of all private sector jobs, the American Enterprise Institute reports.

The bad news: There's still a gap.

  • Almost 30% of the closing gender wage gap since 1979 is attributed to a decline in men's wages, the Economic Policy Institute reports.
  • In 2016, women had higher unemployment rates than men at every level of education, except those with an associate's degree.
  • Women make up just 7% of venture capital decision-makers, as Dan Primack reported.
  • Men are the majority in 26 of the 30 highest-paid jobs (like chief executives, computer engineers and architects), while women are the majority in 23 of the 30 lowest-paying jobs (like waitressing and child care work), Bloomberg reports.
  • The higher the wage percentile, the larger the gap. Women in the 95th percentile make an average of $47.11/hour, while men in the same percentile make an average of $59.92/hour — a 26% difference, according to EPI.

Why it matters: There are two strongly opposing sides to the equal pay argument. Pay gap defenders say decisions around parenthood and career aspirations can skew statistics and create "bogus apples-to-oranges" comparisons. Pay gap activists, however, point out that an unfair burden is placed on mothers to care for their family, and that over-representation in lower-paying jobs highlights longstanding gender stereotypes and perpetual discrimination.

Go deeper