WASHINGTON – Wages for women working in Maryland are the second-highest in the nation, trailing only those in the District of Columbia, according to a report released Tuesday by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
A full-time, year-round, female employee in Maryland earned a median income of $37,200 in 2002, more than $7,000 higher than the national median and just behind the District’s $37,800, the report said.
But even in Maryland, women’s salaries trailed well behind those earned by men, part of a national pay gap that the institute said will take more than 50 years to close at the current pace of improvement.
“Women have made tremendous progress toward gaining economic equality during the last several decades,” the report said. “Nonetheless, throughout the United States, women earn less, are less likely to own a business and are more likely to live in poverty than men.”
Nationally, women earned only 76.2 percent of what men earned in 2002. Depending on race and ethnicity, however, the percentage could fall to almost half of what men earned.
In Maryland, women earned 81.4 percent of men’s salaries, the third-highest in the nation. When compared to white men, however, the highest-earning group in the state, women’s salaries in Maryland fell to 71.1 percent of men’s.
Maryland ranked second on two other economic indicators: 41.3 percent of its employed women were in managerial or professional occupations and 92.4 percent of women lived above the poverty line. Additionally, the report said 28.9 percent of businesses in the state in 1997 were owned by women, the third-highest percentage in the country.
Amy Caiazza, the report’s lead author, said Maryland ranked high in many different categories for a few primary reasons.
“So many people work in the federal government” which is better than most businesses on pay equity for women and minorities, she said.
Maryland also has a strong women’s commission, she said, and the state government is better than most states in terms of pay equity. Caiazza said Maryland also has a highly educated workforce, which means higher salaries regardless of gender.
Not all ethnic groups fared as well as others, however.
While white women workers in Maryland had a median income of $36,400 in 2002, African-American women earned $34,200, Asian-American women earned $36,600, American Indian women got $35,300 and Hispanic women got $27,600. The ethnic breakdowns do not reflect the overall women’s earning numbers, the report said, because different sets of numbers were used.
But Maryland women still ranked no lower than fifth overall in the nation, when broken down by ethnic group.
In order to close the gender wage gap, the report recommended stronger equal-employment laws and job training at all levels of government, better female recruitment and wage monitoring by businesses and easier access to higher education. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., is sponsoring legislation that would make gender-based wage discrimination equal to discrimination for race or ethnicity.
Advocates say the gap is not just a female issue, but a universal one.
“This is something that continues to plague our society,” said Irasema Garza, director of the women’s rights department for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “Year after year we get up here and continue to go through these numbers, and it’s shameful for a country such as ours to have to deal with these kinds of numbers.”
-30- CNS 04-20-04