It has been one of the most stubborn metrics and the most difficult to move in the American labor market — the inequity of pay between men and women. As of 2020, women still lag significantly behind men in average pay. Females earn an average of 81 cents for every $1 earned by men.
True, it’s progress considering that the gender wage gap between men and women was 40% in 1960. In other words, women earned 60 cents for every $1 men earned. A near 20-cent gap is still unfair and unacceptable, however.
Many politicians, economists and social scientists believe that one of the best ways to address the gender wage pay gap is to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour for everyone. The current minimum wage is $7.25/hour. The impact would be especially positive for women, specifically minority women.
Across the board, if a $15 minimum wage was established today, 59% of those who benefit would be women. African Americans comprise 31% of the U.S. labor force and those of Latina/Hispanic heritage are 26%.
A study by Economic Policy Institute (EPI) shows that minimum wage increases in the 1960s significantly lowered the black-white income gap in the years following the hike. Conversely, failure to keep up with minimum wage increases from 1979 through 2009 caused a significant 50% increase in the inequality of men vs. women income. It also widened the gap between the middle and bottom wage distribution scale.
Why women benefit more from a rise in the minimum wage can be better understood when looking at specific labor categories. For example, the average pay for a home health aid is $12.15 per hour. Women hold 92.7% of the jobs in that sector. The CNA, Certified Nursing Assistant, is another example. The average pay is $14.26/hour. Women comprise 88.9% of the employees in this field.
Thus, it’s not difficult to understand how women have much more at stake and much more to gain from raising the federal minimum wage to $15 for everyone.