The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

December 11, 2013

Millennial women closing gender gap, but motherhood may offset gains

Young women seem tantalizingly close to achieving gender equality in the workplace, at least when it comes to wages, a new report from the Pew Research Center suggests. But it remains to be seen whether motherhood will slow their strides, as it did for women before them.

As of last year, women workers ages 25 to 34 were making 93 percent of what men of the same ages earned — much closer to wage equality than earlier generations, Pew found. Between 1980 and 2012, the gap has gradually narrowed for American workers, as wages rose for women and dropped for young men.

Only 15 percent of young women said they had suffered discrimination because of their gender at work. And unlike generations of women before them, female millennials — young women ages 18 to 32 — are statistically as likely as men to have asked their bosses for a promotion or a raise, Pew found.

Yet most young women — 75 percent — believe that more change is needed before men and women are equal at work, the Pew survey showed. Almost 3 out of 5 say that it is easier for men to get top jobs in business and government. Nearly two-thirds fear that having children will hold them back in the workplace.

As a graphic designer, “I don’t think I’ve been held back because of my gender,” said Alexandria Manson, 25, of Monrovia, Calif. But in all kinds of fields, “I can definitely see there are way more executive men than there are women — and not because of their ability.”

Millennials have reason to worry: Earlier generations of young women seemed to be narrowing the gender gap in wages, only to slip as they aged and many started juggling motherhood with jobs.

In 1995, for instance, women hitting their late 20s and early 30s earned 85 percent as much as their male counterparts, a Pew analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data shows. By 2012, those same women, now in their 40s and 50s, were only making 76 percent as much as men of their same age.

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