This Just In: How Women Are Faring in the Workplace

Women may have fared a bit better than men in job retention during the height of last year’s so-called “mancession,” but a new report reveals that women remain underpaid and underrecognized in the workplace—despite playing an increasingly crucial role in the U.S. economy.

The report from the U.S. Congress’ Joint Economic Committee has the usual measures of women’s economic progress–pay, educational attainment, business ownership–with the usual findings: The gender pay gap persists, and women are underrepresented in management.

But there were a few surprises:

  • Gender equality pays big corporate dividends. The report found that companies with a significant bloc of women on their boards of directors tend to outperform those with few women at the helm—boasting 65 percent higher returns on invested capital, 53 percent higher returns on equity, and 42 percent higher sales. What’s more, the 25 Fortune 500 companies with the best records for promoting women to senior positions have 69 percent higher returns than the Fortune 500 median for their industry. But in spite of this—and other—evidence that gender equality can be a pretty lucrative business strategy, women make up less than 15 percent of Fortune 500 execs.
  • Motherhood drives wages down, fatherhood drives wages up! The next time someone tries to tell you that the pay gap is caused by women choosing to have children, pull this little stat out of your back pocket: “Mothers incur a 2.5 percent earnings penalty per child, while fathers see a 2.1 percent earnings boost for each child.”
  • The pay gap costs women $430,000 in their lifetime. Earning just 77 cents to every dollar earned by a man may not sound like a huge loss but, over the course of a career, the average woman loses $430,000 as a result of the pay gap—an amount that, incidentally, hasn’t changed in a decade. If you factor in the wages lost by women who are overlooked for promotions because of their gender, that figure climbs much higher.

Read the full report here [PDF] or to learn more surprising tidbits about women and wealth, check out this edition of How We’re Doing.


Catherine is an assistant features editor at Hyphen magazine and a first year student at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She interned at Ms. in the spring of 2010, and has since reported on the gendered impact of immigration enforcement in Arizona, the rights of health care workers in the Philippines and indigenous women's struggle against Big Oil in Canada. She has a B.A. in English and a minor in Women & Gender Studies from Arizona State University.