Income Gender Gap Actually Widened in 2012

International Women’s Day is a good time to reflect on the progress made toward gender equity, and consider the ways in which women’s issues align with questions of economic and racial justice. A new report compiled by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research shows that the ratio of women’s to men’s earnings have declined since 2011, leaving a gender gap of 19.1 between men and women’s wages in 2012. This is a marked decline since the progress in closing the gender gap of the 1990s. What does this number truly mean? The answer seems to lie in the changing of the economy and the increasing feminization of poverty, and the solution in providing greater anti-poverty measures for all.

Women are more likely to be in poverty than men. This has become especially true since the recession began: in the new economy, most of the jobs added since the beginning of the recession have been low wage, low benefit jobs, and few of them have gone to women. Since women’s incomes are more important than ever in families, it makes sense that fewer decent employment opportunities are contributing not only to the feminization of poverty, but to the rise of poverty as a whole. 

So what should be done about the increasing feminization of poverty and the gender pay gap that has developed alongside it? While many tend to think that increasing the number of women in power would help solve these economic issues, and they certainly wouldn’t hurt, a solution that addresses the problems at the root of the issue, employment and wage practices, would be more targeted. Increasing the employment of women while, as might seem obvious, paying them more.

It should be noted that we should increase the living wage for all people around the nation, as Barack Obama pledged to do in his State of Union. Since women are the ones who are most likely to in unstable, low income positions, and face the greatest incidence of poverty, only by creating more opportunity for all of those making the least will women be able to rise beyond the gender gap. The inequity in pay and income will not go away on its own, but by tackling the economic challenges facing women head on, perhaps America’s interrelated problems with gender and economic justice will look a bit brighter by the next International Women’s Day.