(Opinion) A call to men on equal pay

In New Hampshire, the wage gap between men and women is even larger than the national average

Although American girls were long relegated to second-class status when it came to education, recent generations have increasingly excelled in school. According to detailed research released by the Brookings Institution last fall, nearly nine out of 10 girls graduate high school on time, compared to around eight in 10 boys.

The Brookings Institution’s analysis of U.S. Census data found that young women outperform young men when it comes to college completion in all 50 states. According to the Census Bureau’s five-year estimates published in 2020, 41 percent of women between the ages of 25 and 34 held a bachelor’s degree compared to 32 percent of men nationwide. In New Hampshire, the college completion gap is similarly wide at 46 percent and 37 percent for women and men, respectively.

This is impressive when you consider that just 12 percent of women held a BA in 1970, far below the 20 percent of men with college degrees at the time.

In light of this remarkable progress of an historically marginalized group in closing, and more, the longstanding, socially imposed gender achievement gap in American education, you would expect the longstanding, socially imposed gender pay gap to close as well. But that is sadly not the case.

According to the latest Pew Research Analysis of U.S. Census data, the gender pay gap has barely budged in the last 20 years. In 2022, the average female worker earned 82 cents for every dollar earned by men in median hourly wages. In 2002, the gap was just two cents wider at 80 cents nationwide.

In New Hampshire, the gap is wider still.

For reasons we do not fully understand, Granite State women earn just 76 cents on the dollar, according to the NH Women’s Foundation’s 2023 Status of Women report.

March 14 was designated “Equal Pay Day” in New Hampshire — the day that symbolizes how far into the year the average full-time working woman must work in order to earn what the average full-time working man already earned the previous year.

The gap is particularly evident when viewed along racial lines. According to U.S. Census data analyzed in the Status of Women report, Granite State women of European descent fair slightly better than average, earning 80 cents for every dollar paid to men, while Hispanic and African American women like my wife fare much worse at 63 cents. That’s a difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of a career — a surefire way to keep the centuries-old racial-wealth gap intact.

Similar inequities exist for working women with children at home, who are paid 67 percent of the wages earned by men in New Hampshire. For women without children, the gap is meaningfully smaller at 85 percent. It doesn’t help that our state faces an acute lack of affordable child care.

More worrying still, the gender pay gap has only widened in New Hampshire in recent years, thanks to the disproportionate economic and family pressures imposed on women by the pandemic. The average full-time working woman in New Hampshire earned 82 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2019 before falling six percentage points to 76 cents today.

Rather than an inevitable expression of natural or economic laws, these profound economic inequities are a matter of policy — of the choices we make in society to invest in social goods like child care and health care, or not; to provide fair compensation for women-dominated fields like education and social services, or not; to demand (and vote for) gender diversity in C-suites and the halls of government, or not.

Our failure to make the right choices in Concord and Washington — and in the various institutions to which we all belong — is not just detrimental to women and girls; it harms us all, men and boys included. Good reason for all of us to support sensible state policies that will advance gender justice this legislative session.

Dan Weeks is vice president and co-owner of ReVision Energy and a longtime board member of the NH Women’s Foundation.

Categories: Opinion