72 cents for every dollar. That’s the wage disparity between women and men in Indiana. But some researchers say gender discrimination may not have much to do with it.
Wearing red to represent being “in the red” when it comes to the pay gap between them and their male counterparts, several dozen women rallied for equality on the steps of the St. Joseph County courthouse Tuesday afternoon.
Bonita Nelson was one of them.
“I’ve been in positions where I've worked in lower paying jobs when a male was doing similar things under the same qualification but he made more than me. And that's just not right,” Nelson said.
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg issued a proclamation at the rally, designating April 17 "Equal Pay Day." It marks the date that the wages paid to American women catch up to what American men earned in all of 2011.
The 2011 Census Bureau ranks Indiana 47th among all 50 states in the union when it comes to pay equity for women. Buttigieg called that number “embarrassing.”
But some experts believe those numbers can be misleading.
Saint Mary’s College Assistant Economics Professor Richard Measell said one example is Census Bureau researchers putting all types of jobs into one category, regardless of whether they're management or entry level positions.
“The biggest thing is for women that have a discontinuous work experience,” Measell explained. “They'll get out of school, work for a while, family comes along, they adjust their work behavior and then they come back to maybe full time work and that has a noticeable effect on what the pay is.”
The earnings difference between men and woman doesn't necessarily prove discrimination and researchers don’t take several other factors into consideration, he added.
“Male full-time workers work more hours than female full-time workers, men tend to be in more dangerous, high-risk type jobs than women,” said Measell.
Nelson agrees there’s more to it, and she believes the wage gap will only improve with awareness.
“It’s more subtle, hard to quantify,” she said.
Measell told WSBT research shows the pay gap for single women versus single men is very, very small.
In fact, one study from a couple years ago found single women in their 20s with no kids earned eight percent more than men.