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Ohio’s Gender Wage Gap: Women Earn 79 cents for Every Dollar a Man Earns

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Tuesday, May 9, 2023   

By Nathalia Teixeira / Broadcast version by Nadia Ramlagan reporting for the Kent State-Ohio News Connection Collaboration.

In Ohio, women earn on average 79 cents for every dollar a man earns, according to 2019 U.S. Census Bureau data analyzed by the National Women's Law Center.

Nationally, in 2002, women working full and part-time earned 80% of what men earned. By 2022, that had risen to just 82%, according to the Pew Research Center.

"One of the biggest reasons we haven't seen it reverse is because a lot of the reasons it exists in the first place are structural," said Sheri Jones, past president of the National Association of Women's Business Owners-Columbus.

Women are generally responsible for childcare, eldercare and home activities, experts said. They also face discrimination at work, and due to these structural factors, they tend to work in lower-paid fields that reduce their earnings for their entire life.

"Historically - especially in American culture, but in most cultures - people have been taught that women have qualities that are weaker, that they're less successful, that they're less focused. All of that is entirely untrue," said Kelley Griesmer, president and CEO of the Women's Fund of Central Ohio. "And the biases are the same on the reverse. Men are expected to be very confident, very successful."

Women are often expected to be good mothers and care for their homes, even when working in a full or part-time job.

"Women are still the ones managing the mental load at home, putting all that cognitive effort into managing the household," said Susan Fisk, associate professor of sociology at Kent State University. "They're still doing more housework."

Some women leave their jobs to focus on home and family duties, Jones said.

"Women, traditionally, it's so stressful to try to manage all these things that in a lot of cases they just give up and it's not worth it," Jones said. "Until we're willing to look at the structure and how we ask women to work, they may continue to choose to leave the workforce instead of work."

Fisk explained two sources of the gender wage gap. One is horizontal gender segregation, in which women are more likely to work in jobs that pay less, such as daycare. The second contributor is vertical gender segregation, in which the further you climb up an organization's ladder, the fewer women you see.

"People are just sort of less comfortable when that behavior [leadership] comes from women," Fisk said.

Joining the professional environment can be overwhelming for women as they face many challenges other than wages, such as discrimination, stereotypes and social stigmas.

"Women face negative stereotypes about their competence," Fisk said. "This can make it harder for women to succeed in these fields and cause them to experience bias in hiring, promotion and their day-to-day work."

Griesmer also mentioned that there are reports that show if you have two resumes that look the same with the same qualifications, but you put a woman's name at the top of the resume instead of a man's, research shows that the people who blindly review those resumes tend to think the man is more qualified than the woman.

Women come to the workforce more highly educated, Jones said. By not paying women the same as men, we're losing out on more diverse and interesting ideas and more innovation, she said.

"The patriarchal narrative continues because very often - for white men, all men but especially white men - it's very hard for them to admit that although they are decent people, they are still not treating women fairly," Griesmer said. "They want to believe that they've already mastered that."

The gender pay gap leads to the gender wealth gap. Griesmer and Jones pointed out that when a woman is underpaid in a previous job and a new job is offered to her, she may earn more, but a man who started out earning more may experience a bigger bump in pay.

"It just kind of haunts you the rest of your career," Griesmer said.

Women of color were among the groups that most suffered from the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, whereas before the pandemic the Women's Fund of Central Ohio wealth gap showed that women of color own $0.02 for every dollar that a single man owns.

"The sad news is that the pandemic likely caused women to lose almost a generation of advances because so many of the programs that support women, the support structures for women, were removed or couldn't be given because of the way the world interacted during the pandemic," Griesmer said. "That's why a lot of people now refer to the pandemic as a she-cession, because women were so disproportionately impacted."

This collaboration is produced in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded in part by the George Gund Foundation.

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