Female-Headed Households Have Lowest Family Earnings

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While women’s earnings continue to represent a larger part of a family’s income, households that are headed by a woman’s income earn the lowest according to President Obama’s report on the status of American women, the first to be drafted since John F Kennedy’s presidency.

Women who were their family’s breadwinners earned 30% less than male-headed households in 2008.

Reasons for this include the gender pay gap which still stands strong according to Obama’s report; women still only make 75% of what men make. And even though the report acknowledges that men and women continue to assume different occupations (women are more likely to work in administrative support jobs; few women work in construction, production, or transportation), opposite sex workers in the same position often see disparities in pay.

Such was the subject of the class-action lawsuit against Walmart when a female assistant manager discovered that a male employee with less experience was making $10,000 more than her a year.

The following ensued, according to The New York Times:

She complained to her boss, who defended the disparity by saying the male had a family to support. When she replied that she was having a baby that she needed to support, the supervisor made her provide a personal budget and then gave her a raise closing just one-fifth the gap.

Another prominent factor is that women statistically don’t negotiate their salary upon being hired, potentially costing them over $1 million dollars in a lifetime according to economist Linda Babcock.

NPR reported on a series of studies that Babcock and Hannah Riley Bowles, a Harvard researcher, did in which they screened videos of both women and men asking for a raise to willing participants. The men and women read from the same scripts and while men were praised for their efforts, the women were deemed “too aggressive.”

Up against blatant sexism, Babcock and Bowles investigated further into how women could negotiate money without doing damage to their careers. They did actually find some tactics that worked:

Women can justify the request by saying their team leader, for example, thought they should ask for a raise. Or they can convince the boss their negotiating skills are good for the company. The trick, Babcock says, is to conform to a feminine stereotype: appear friendly, warm and concerned for others above yourself.

Women who are supporting their families are confronted with not only a wage gap, but when attempting to rectify their circumstances, are then potentially harming their careers by not appearing “friendly” and “warm.” Meanwhile, working mothers are still going home to their families with less money which results in less access to childcare and other resources needed by working families. And yet female-headed households earning less than traditionally male-headed households present the worst evidence of all: the work of women, specifically women with children, is continuing to go undervalued in the workplace.