- The U.S. has made progress with respect to gender equality, New York University (NYU) researchers said in a March 30 statement, but progress has slowed on measures such as equal pay and equal representation in certain occupations.
- For example, the percentage ratio of women's to men's median hourly earnings increased dramatically from 60% in 1970 to 74% in the 1980s, but that figure has increased at a flatter pace since 1990, the researchers found when examining data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center for Education Statistics. By 2018, women earned 83% of the median earnings that men did.
- Occupational segregation remains an issue for gender equality efforts, according to NYU. Though segregation has fallen since the 1970s, it did so much faster between the 1970s and 1980s than it did in the time since 1990, the researchers noted. This may be in part due to persistent segregation in the types of educational degrees attained by men and women, both at the undergraduate and doctoral levels.
The gender pay gap remains one of the most persistent and visible examples of inequality in the modern workplace. Despite measures taken by elected officials and employers to close the gap, estimates from the World Economic Forum predict that it is years away from actually being closed, and that doing so globally could take more than 100 years.
"The slowdown on some indicators and stall on others suggests that further progress requires substantial institutional and cultural change," Paula England, NYU professor of sociology and the study's senior author, said in the statement.
Some employers have upped efforts in recent years to ensure fair pay for employees across demographic categories. Mastercard, for example, claimed in March that it achieved "gender pay equity" among male and female employees at the same level and in the same roles, but that women at the company still made 92% on a median pay basis of what men did.
Even measures intended to address pay gaps can fall short. A January report by compensation software company PayScale found transparent pay policies helped to mitigate gaps between women and men who held the same position across most jobs, but that the gaps persisted in male-dominated occupations, like protective services and maintenance and repair, despite the implementation of such policies. A study by the MIT Sloan School of Management found that specialization — when workers perform specialized tasks that differ from those of other employees in the same job and organization — may also lead to pay gaps.
The NYU analysis shows that progress on gender equality measures may require employers in particular to adopt policies that reduce gender bias and help both men and women combine their jobs with their family care responsibilities, England said.