It is all over the news. According to the recent Pew Research Center survey, women are the breadwinners in 40% of households with children under 18 years of age. Compare that to 11% in 1960. The way the news is being regurgitated over all types of media seems to indicate that women have achieved progress in the workplace. Have they really? Is it good for women that many of them have become breadwinners? Good for men? For children? Or all of the above? The jury is still out on that one.
What I know is that the news obscure the fact that women take home 77 cents for each dollar earned annually by men in similar jobs. And even in female-dominated fields, there is a gender wage gap. If a woman happens to be the sole breadwinner in the family, and there are many in the 40%, we can see how the 77 cents pack a negative wallop in supporting a household with children. Women have to work harder and longer to catch up and put the proverbial bread on the table.
What happened to “equal pay for equal work”? The Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963. We are actually celebrating its 50th anniversary! According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, it will take 47 years to achieve equal pay at the rate we are going. Most of the narrowing of the wage gap happened in the 90s. We are now at a virtual standstill. The gap exists in spite of the fact that women now receive 57% of college degrees, 60% of graduate degrees and a majority of entry-level positions. The pundits on the left blame the institutional, government and societal barriers, such as lack of quality day care, paid sick leave and lack of transparency regarding pay, to name a few. The pundits on the right blame internal barriers – they say it is the fault of women or it is really their choice. And Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook says that women in the workplace have yet to learn how to “Lean In“.
Could it simply be good old prejudice – that the old stereotype still prevails about women not being able to lead or not being ambitious enough to reach the top? With a very polarized society, I guess equity won’t happen in my lifetime. The glass ceiling and the sticky floor will continue to be the bane in women’s lives, at home and in the workplace.
So, who is the breadwinner in your family? The traditional family where the wife is a stay-at-home Mom and where the husband “brings home the bacon” is going the way of the dinosaurs. Is there really a choice to stay traditional or even to have one stay-at-home parent, no matter the gender? Wages of Romney’s 47% have stagnated through the years. Obama’s middle class has been suffering the same fate. The 1% continues to take a disproportionate share of the national income.
For the rest of us, the reality is that there is no choice — it takes two to put bread on the table.