The gender wage gap still exists. The trouble with addressing it is how big of a gap there is, and how to measure it. Writing and research for this article have proven difficult because the answers all depend on who you ask.
The Institute for Women’s Policy Research ranks Louisiana 48th in the nation in a study done earlier this year, with the gap not expected to close until 2115. According to information from the U.S. census bureau, a woman working full-time in Louisiana makes on average $34,500, or just 69% of what white men make. Black women working full-time only make 47% of what working white men make, according to this study. The IWPR ranks Louisiana as 40th in the nation with women in the workforce, at 56.1 percent. Louisiana also ranks 38th in the nation for women in managerial or professional occupations, with 39.6 percent of women holding these positions compared to 28 percent of men in the state. In other words, even though over 39 percent of women in the workforce (in Louisiana) hold managerial or professional positions, compared to men in the workforce who only hold these positions 28 times out of 100, women STILL earn less than men.
Then you have AAUW, which based on their April 2018 press release, ranks Louisiana 51st, or dead last in the nation, with a similar gender wage gap of 70%. The AAUW also reports Hispanic women make only 57 cents on every dollar of what working white men make throughout the state.
The National Partnership for Women and Families, in an April of 2018 statement, also ranks Louisiana as dead last for the wage gap of black women, making only 47% of all median white working men in the state, or only $26,500 median. According to their information, Louisiana has roughly 214,000 black women working full-time.
The most promising number comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics in a September 2017 release. Based on their data from 2016, Louisiana women make 76.4% of their male counterparts.
While all the sources have varying gaps, they also list many causes for the wage disparity. Lack of experience, skills and education and even pregnancy are all listed as reasons. What all organizations do agree on, however, is that Louisiana has very few protections for the wage gap and that the State is doing very little to close this gap. Existing equal pay protections only apply to public employees, which accounts for only 17% of the state’s population.
SB117, introduced earlier this year, aimed to further protections for women in the workforce and to include higher wages, but the measure was struck down. Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, was one of the biggest opponents of the bill. SB117 cited a gap of 66%, which Hewitt argued is measured on a metric of comparing the median of all working men and women.
“That means that if you lined up all of the men in Louisiana from the highest paid to the lowest paid and chose the man standing in the middle, did the same thing with the women, then compared the pay of the man and the woman standing in the middle of their lines, the woman would be making 66 cents on the dollar compared to the man,” Hewitt argued. “It has nothing to do with what their jobs are.”
Hewitt further went on to point out that when women compared to men in similar jobs, women make 98% of their male counterparts, citing a study by PayScale.com, claiming the two-cent different as insignificant. However, that same site lists the 98 cents-on-the-dollar figure as a controlled gender pay gap for similar jobs and cites an uncontrolled gender pay gap of 78 cents of every dollar by comparing all working women to all working men. PayScale.com also lists Louisiana as last in the nation for controlled gender pay gap, with women making only 94.4 cents of every dollar for men.
While the sources, figures and studies all vary, not only does a gender wage gap but also a racial wage gap still exists. Louisiana has far to go as a state to improve these figures and to improve the income and lives of women in the state.