Female voters were a decisive factor in the presidential race, with 55 percent casting ballots for President Barack Obama, vs. 44 percent for Mitt Romney; the only year the spread was higher was in 1996, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. A record number of female candidates ran for national office—18 for the Senate, up from the 2010 high of 14, and 166 for the House of Representatives, vs. 141 in 2004—which means the 113th Congress will have at least 98 female members, the most ever, including a record 20 Senators.
The number of dual-income households in which women are the primary breadwinner reached 29 percent in 2009, reflecting a radical upending of the traditional model. Women are an increasingly vital part of the workforce—yet, despite talk of the downfall of men, they still don’t come close to economic parity.
After accounting for experience and education, as well as occupation—male-dominated fields tend to be higher-paying than female-dominant ones—the pay gap falls from 23 percent to about 9 percent, according to Cornell University labor economists Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn. Outright discrimination plays a part, but a larger proportion of the disparity can be attributed to the hit women take for absorbing most of the child-care duties that crop up at home, a burden one might call the “caregiver tax.”
Reaching true economic and professional equality between the sexes will require a re-imagining of workplace culture—which continues to penalize women who need flexible schedules, even as it actively disincentivizes men from assuming more duties at home, lest they step off the career track.
Fixing the pay gap will demand more progressive public policies as well as businesses to modernize their cultures to accommodate both halves of the workforce.
Source: Bloomberg BusinessWeek, November 19, 2012