The post-pandemic economy is seeing outsized wage growth for women. Wages have increased at a faster rate for women than men, rising more than 4% in February year over year (YoY) compared to 2021, a significant reversal from earlier in the pandemic.
The wage gains for women have become a trend, as February was the sixth straight month for women’s wages to grow at a faster rate than men’s. Despite the positive news, a multitude of challenges remain for women in achieving wage parity with men.
Female wages increased 4.4% in February compared to 2021, while men saw a 4.1% raise in wages, per The Wall Street Journal. The six straight months of solid wage gains for women coincides with a particularly strong month in December, as female wage gains that month exceeded male gains by 0.5 percentage points, one of the widest margins on record.
The wage gains for women come at a time when women have experienced significant upheaval throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, with women making up a higher share of lower-wage service sector jobs, the wage gains are sure to be positive news.
Julia Pollak, chief economist at jobs recruiting site ZipRecruitertold The Journal that women, “who experienced the worst disruption during the pandemic, [are] now also experiencing the fastest recovery in earnings and employment. It’s sort of sad that we only see these reversals and any kind of narrowing in the gaps when the labor market is extraordinarily, unusually tight. But that is typically the pattern.”
Another piece of welcome news is women who are changing jobs are receiving significant pay increases. “About 31% of women who changed jobs during the pandemic got a compensation package—including salary and bonus—that was more than 30% higher than in their previous role. That slightly exceeds the 28% of men who reported a pay increase,” according to a report from The Conference Board .
As women have increasingly entered higher-paying professions, the gender pay gap has slightly shrunk.
However, the gender pay gap remains in several industries where women comprise the majority of the workforce, such as housekeepers and hairdressers. Not only do these jobs pay less, but women holding these positions are more likely to work part time, with 62% of part-time workers being women, according to a February 2022 Department of Labor report.
With working mothers especially disrupted by the pandemic, pay setbacks and hardships for this demographic group have occurred. However, these trends are starting to reverse. Labor force participation for women aged 25 to 54 increased to 75.8%, a jump of 0.9 percentage points yoy.
Despite this rebound, the wage gains are a mixed bag for the broader employment market for female workers. An average woman working year-round, full time earned 83 cents compared to every male dollar earned, data from 2020 showed, and male labor force participation continues to outpace women.
$74K for Men, $52K for Women
The average salary for men in 2021 was $73,511, while the average salary for women was $51,917, according to the investing site DQYDJ.com.
Unlike their female counterparts, male workers have fully recovered in labor force participation from pandemic losses, per WSJ. While labor force participation for women is up to 75.8%, it is a number that has not fully recovered since COVID began.
Between 2019 and 2021, the decline for women in labor force participation has been particularly steep for non-college educated women. Women with only a high school degree saw a six percentage point drop in labor force participation, compared to a nearly two percentage point drop for men with the same educational attainment, Pew Research found in January.
Even as wages for women outpace men, broader challenges for women remain in the post-pandemic economy, says Isabel Sawhill, senior fellow at the Brookings Institute. With female workforce participation not recovering to pre-pandemic levels yet and broader wage gains still lagging, Sawhill tells Fortune Magazine that more work is needed for true wage parity between men and women. “It’s not a big difference. I can’t get too excited about that, frankly."
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