Women May Take Extra Financial Hit from Pandemic

As they’re more likely to be family caregivers, women may stay out of work longer

Stephen Miller, CEBS By Stephen Miller, CEBS April 2, 2020
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woman working at home with child

Women will experience a disproportionate financial loss from the COVID-19 pandemic, new research suggests.

They are more likely than men to take time off from work to care for children whose schools are closed or elderly parents and family members who remain at risk, according to a new report.

"Our research shows women are unfairly impacted financially in times of crisis like the current coronavirus epidemic," said Sudarshan Sampath, director of research at PayScale, a compensation data and software firm. "Employers should recognize that employment gaps to care for family members may be unavoidable," he said, and they should not use these gaps to penalize women when they return to the workforce.

PayScale's 2020 State of the Gender Pay Gap report shows that in the U.S., a woman earns on average 81 cents for every dollar earned by a man—a nominal change over last year's 79 cents for every dollar earned by men. These averages compare the work of all women to all men.

PayScale's research also studied the controlled gender pay gap—the disparity in pay for men and women doing the same work. This pay gap remains 98 cents earned by women for every dollar earned by men. Employers should be vigilant about gender inequality, Sampath said.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Managing Pay Equity]

Caregiving Responsibilities

Women who leave the workforce due to caregiving responsibilities and then return to work will receive an offer that is 7 percent less than what a candidate who is currently employed would receive, regardless of gender, the data show. But only 38 percent of U.S. companies plan to conduct a pay equity analysis to identify problems.

"We believe most companies want to do the right thing to ensure gender pay equity," said Sampath, who recommended that employers use market data to assess the state of the gender pay gap and make the necessary adjustments to achieve gender pay equity.

Researchers also found that:

  • By age 45, men are twice as likely as women to be directors or executives.
  • 6 percent of women hold executive jobs compared to 12 percent of men.
  • Women who are highly educated occupy lower positions in the workforce than men who are highly educated. Women with master's degrees in business are taking home 75 cents for every dollar that men with the same degree earn.

Jobs in technology, engineering and science come closest to providing the same pay for doing the same jobs, achieving dollar-for-dollar controlled pay parity for women and men. However, women tend to be underrepresented in this highly paid sector of the economy, making up 29 percent of the technology industry and 38 percent of engineering and science jobs.


Promoting Transparency

According to PayScale's data, most women (58 percent) believe they are paid less than men, even if they are paid fairly, Sampath noted. He added that "investment in pay equity analysis and pay transparency can correct this perception and close the gender pay gap."

Pay analysts estimated that, at companies where employees said the pay process is transparent, women earn between $1 and $1.01 for every dollar earned by men, effectively erasing the gender pay gap.

"As a society, we must work to better define equity pay gaps to achieve both total pay equality across employees in similar positions and across employees of varying levels," said Tanya Jansen, co-founder of beqom, a cloud-based compensation software provider.

She noted that last year, Intel posted online its EEO-1 pay-data report that it filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, disclosing job-position compensation across the company, sorted by gender and race/ethnicity.

"The transparency provided by Intel [in posting this data] and their commitment to true equality is a wonderful step in the right direction," Jansen said.

DOL Seeks Employer Feedback

Employers can share their thoughts with the Department of Labor (DOL) regarding future guidance on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Comments can be submitted online at https://ffcra.ideascale.com through April 10, 2020—an extended deadline.

The DOL will use this feedback to develop compliance-assistance guidance, resources and tools, and outreach approaches that assist employers and employees in understanding their responsibilities and rights under the FFCRA.



Related SHRM Article:

Family Obligations Widen Gender-Pay Gap, Research SuggestsSHRM Online, December 2018

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