Women and Gender Studies Program

USM WGS Professor Susan Feiner in the PPH

Prof. Susan Feiner

Pay equity? 'One job, two job, pink job, blue job' by Susan Feiner, Portland Press Herald, April 29, 2014

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 didn’t level the playing field when it comes to gender divisions at work.

Here’s the one thing you absolutely must know about pay equity: There isn’t any.

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 made pay discrimination on the basis of sex illegal. Gone were separate job ads for women and men. Men and women were now entitled to the same minimum wage.

But these basic and important changes weren’t able to level the playing field. Because gender divisions in the world of work, complete with significant gender-based wage differences, are as stark as the color coding at Toys R Us.

Boy toys are blue – machines, trucks, hand tools, guns. Girl toys are pink – stoves, makeup, shopping carts, dolls. The effect in the labor market is that jobs performed by pink workers pay less than jobs performed by blue workers.

The wage gap (a percent) is the ratio of the average hourly earnings of full-time working women compared to the average hourly earnings of full-time working men.

Unfun fact: Of the 840 detailed occupational classifications tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are only 112 with sufficient gender integration to even calculate the ratio of women’s pay to men’s pay. Of the 20 most common occupations for men and the 20 most common occupations for women, only four overlap.

Men and women do different jobs. Paraphrasing Dr. Seuss: “One job, two job, pink job, blue job.”

“So what,” say wage-gap scoffers, “a job is a choice. Men and women are different, so of course they choose different jobs.” Nope. Even when women and men are in the same jobs, there’s a pay gap.

Don’t look for pay equity in the highest-prestige professions. After controlling for hours worked, 2012 research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that male physicians earned $56,019 per year more than their female counterparts.

But that’s not the Grand Canyon of pay gaps. A 2013 report on the legal industry found that among attorneys 16 or more years post-bar exam, men’s total compensation averaged $329,414, while women’s compensation averaged $261,503 for the granddaddy of all pay gaps – $67,911 per year.

Education is not the great leveler. Men with high school diplomas outearn women with associate degrees. Men with bachelor’s degrees earn more than women with master’s degrees. Men with master’s degrees earn more than women with professional or doctoral degrees.

Pay differences at the baccalaureate level are stunning: the average male holder of a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science degree earns $1,199 per week, while the average female holder of a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science degree earns just $930 per week. That’s a $14,000-per-year pink penalty. Pay disparities are an immediate kick in the pocketbook. Just one year after college graduation, women earn only 82 percent of what their male classmates earn.

A major problem? Yes. But is the choice of major the problem? No. Among teachers, women earn 89 percent of what men earn. In management and business occupations, women’s earnings are 86 percent of men’s. In marketing and sales, women earn a paltry 77 percent of what men earn.

At the current rate of progress (which, by the way, isn’t really progress, because the better part of the narrowing of the wage gap is because of the decline in men’s wages, not an increase in women’s), those of us in the workforce today will not live to see pay equity. Mark your calendars now – 2058, the party for wage fairness.

Even though neither of Maine’s U.S. senators thought pay equity was important enough to actually vote for, Mainers who care about gender equity have a great place to start.

In a measure of women’s share of green jobs – which are generally well-paid, require modest amounts of training and can’t be offshored – Maine is dead last in the nation.

Yet growth in the clean-energy sector outpaces growth in every other sector of the Maine economy. The Environmental and Energy Technology Council of Maine estimated that in 2010, the green sector had a total impact of 20,000 new jobs, generating more than $680 million in new labor income. Yet no state-level reports even contain the word “women,” nor will one find any reference to training programs for women in clean tech.

Emancipation does not mean virtual equality. Support pay equity. Make green jobs pink.

Susan Feiner is a professor of economics and women and gender studies at the University of Southern Maine. She can be contacted at:

sffeiner@gmail.com