Women still trail men at highest salary levels , Census survey says

Posted: Thursday, March 27, 2003

WASHINGTON -- Women hold nearly half the executive and managerial jobs in the United States, but they fall short of men at the top rungs of the salary ladder.

Nearly 46 percent of management positions were filled by women in 2002, the Census Bureau reported Monday, up from only about a third in 1983 but virtually unchanged from the record high set in 2001.

Almost 16 percent of men working full-time earned at least $75,000 a year, compared with 6 percent of women. And 20 percent of men made between $50,000 and $75,000, compared to 12 percent of women, according to a bureau survey taken in March 2002.

''In my lifetime, there will still be a wage gap,'' said Betty Spence, president of the National Association of Female Executives. ''It's up to women in senior positions to bring other women up, or else it's not going to happen.''

Some women have scaled back careers to raise children, but discrimination also is partly to blame for the salary disparities, said Amy Caiazza of the Institute for Women's Policy Research.

It may also be because of the kind of management positions women hold that has led to the gap at the highest income brackets. Men still dominate the corporate boardrooms and the jobs that earn a six-figure salary, while the inroads women are making in supervisory posts may be concentrated more in lesser-paying lower- and mid-management positions, Caiazza said.

Caiazza said the government can do more to encourage gender equity.

''There's a point at which we have to be more serious about enforcing equal opportunity and anti-discrimination laws,'' she said.

Overall, there are slightly more women than men in the United States -- women made up 51 percent of the country's 282.2 million people in March 2002. Men outnumber women in the work force 53-47 percent.

Nearly one-quarter of the 63.6 million employed women age 16 and older in 2002 worked in administrative or clerical positions, larger than any other field.

Another 19 percent of women worked in professional specialty fields, which includes engineering, doctors and teachers. The next two most popular areas for women were service-related jobs and management and executive positions.

When the economy was booming in the late 1990s, more companies sought to entice women by offering flexible schedules that would allow them to spend more time at home with children. But with the economy slipping and unemployment rising, employers aren't being as flexible.

That may be hindering many women from advancing in the workplace, said Kirsten Ross, founder of Womans-Work LLC, which helps women find alternative arrangements to balance job responsibilities with family.

''The women of the generation before us, their fight was to get in the boardroom. Now for this generation of women, their fight is to gain more flexibility,'' Ross said. ''There's still a stigma for woman who want to have flexibility.''

A separate Census Bureau report last week showed that earning levels for women are at record highs, with those holding college diplomas especially benefiting. The number of women with at least a bachelor's degree is also at a record high.

Last September, the bureau also reported that median earnings for women who worked full-time rose 3.5 percent to $29,215, compared with $38,275 for men.

Put another way, women earned 76 cents for every dollar a man earned, surpassing the previous high of 74 cents to the dollar recorded in 1996.

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On the Net:

Census Bureau release: http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/2003/cb03-53.html



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