The Retail Industry Lags Far Behind in Closing the Gender Pay Gap

The U.S. has a long way to go before it achieves gender pay parity, and while the country is making some progress overall, the retail industry is lagging far behind.

Glassdoor today released a research report analyzing 426,512 salaries reported by full-time American workers between the ages of 17 and 92, and found that the overall adjusted pay gap dropped to 4.6 percent in 2018 from 6.5 percent in 2011. (The “adjusted” gap includes statistical controls for differences in education, job titles and other factors aside from gender.) The employment review site published a similar study in 2016 looking at data from 2006 through 2015, and the new research shows the progress the country has, and hasn’t, made since then.

Before controlling for factors like title, background and experience, women today earn 79 cents per dollar of male earnings, up from 75.9 cents in 2015. On an adjusted basis, the gap is 95 cents per dollar today versus 94.6 cents in 2015.

Some of the advancement can be explained by the strength of the economy throughout the past three years: The unemployment rate has ranged from 3.7 to 5 percent, hitting a 49-year low in September 2018. By contrast, unemployment hovered at around 7 to 10 percent in several of the years in the prior sample, reaching a 25-year high of 10.2 percent in October 2008. With women’s labor force participation growing faster than men’s, women have been able to reap the rewards of the tight labor market and are increasingly taking jobs in fields traditionally dominated by men.

The industries that have made the biggest progress in closing the gender pay gap since Glassdoor’s last study are the nonprofit sector (down 2.1 percentage points), health care (down 1.5 percentage points), real estate (down 1.4 percentage points) and business services (down 1.3 percentage points). And for female job seekers looking to join a field with above-average pay parity, the top choices are biotech and pharmaceuticals industry (2.2 percent pay gap), education (2.4 percent) and aerospace and defense (2.9 percent).

The retail industry, though, presents a more troubling scenario: Along with media, it is tied for the highest adjusted gender pay gap among all industries at 6.4 percent, about 31 percent larger than the national average. The gap has also widened since Glassdoor’s last report, increasing by 0.5 percentage points since 2015.

Women remain underrepresented in higher-paying retail management positions and are overrepresented in lower-paying positions like cashiers and sales associates, however even adjusting for these factors, women in the industry earn an average of 93.6 cents per dollar earned by men at the same company with the same job title, background and experience.

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