Sunday, December 8, 2013
Women who work full time in Maine earn about 22 percent less than men who work full time, according to the latest data on the state's work force.
In 2010, women in food preparation and serving jobs earned 82 percent of what a man made. Krista Kern Desjarlais, front, owner of Portland’s Bresca, says her line cooks, Blaine Pitcock, left, and Shelby Stevens, do the same work and earn the same pay.
John Ewing/Staff Photographer
Men tend to earn a lot more than women in occupations such as manufacturing and sales, and a little more in health care support and administrative support, according to the data.
The wage gap is only about half as big now as it was in the 1970s, the result of women gradually catching up to men's salaries and hourly wages, economists say. But it hasn't gone away.
"It's certainly been moving in the right direction, but it's been moving very slowly," said Laurie Lachance, a former Maine state economist who is now president of Thomas College.
The lingering income gap is no surprise to many working women. It may be news to a lot of men, however.
A poll conducted for the Press Herald in late June found that 66 percent of women said they believe women are paid less than men for the same work. Most men -- 53 percent -- on the other hand said that they either did not believe women are paid less or weren't sure.
"They have not really faced it or dealt with it," said Krista Kern Desjarlais, the owner of and chef at Bresca, a restaurant on Middle Street in Portland.
Working her way up as a restaurant line cook and chef, she sometimes replaced men who had no more experience -- and maybe less -- but earned more, Desjarlais said.
"I don't feel like I've ever been discriminated against, but I definitely have taken positions where I was paid less than the man who was in the job before me," she said.
Desjarlais said she doesn't feel it was discrimination because she never worked side by side with a man who was earning more. And, she said, "I chose to take those jobs willingly."
The overwhelming data backs up Desjarlais' experience. Sorry, guys. On this subject, at least, the women seem to know what they're talking about.
"I have absolutely no doubt about it. We document it every year," said Lachance, who helped track state economic data as a member of the Maine Economic Growth Council. "When you look at what full-time women make and what full-time men make by occupation, there's no question women make less."
And that's not good, either for the economy or for the state as a whole, according to Lachance.
"When you look at single heads of households, it's predominantly women, which means that children in that family unit are dealing with lower earnings and a lower standard of living," she said.
The gap also means women -- who tend to live longer than men -- earn less in their careers to support themselves through their retirement years and are more likely to need public assistance, she said.
It's not just women experts who say that the wage gap is real.
"The numbers certainly bear out the story that women are earning substantially less than men for what we would consider the same work," said Ryan Neale, program director for the Maine Economic Growth Council and the Maine Development Foundation.
The average Maine woman working full-time earned $33,959 in 2010, according to the latest annual survey data published by the U.S. Census Bureau. That's 78 percent of what the average Maine man earned -- $43,257. In other words, she earned about 78 cents for every dollar he earned.
Nationally, woman earned 78.3 percnt of what men earned, according to the survey.
That gap is much smaller than it was 40 years ago, when Maine women earned an average of 58 percent of what men earned.
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