Young women earn 6% less than young men within just five years of working, new research suggests.
It starts early and only gets worse.
The gender gap in pay and advancement emerges early on in a woman’s career, according to new research from Accenture: Young women earn 6% less than young men within just five years of working; meanwhile, men are 8% more likely to have attained manager level and 22% more likely to have attained senior management level by age 30.
And the pay gap for young women endures, according to the survey of 2,907 workers under 30 who’ve been in the workforce five years or less: Sixty-seven percent of young men said they’d gotten a pay increase over the last three years (relative to inflation), compared to just 56% of young women who said the same.
U.S. women on average make about 80 cents on a man’s dollar, and the gap is even wider for many women of color: Black women who work full-time and year-round make about 63 cents on a white man’s dollar, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women make 59 cents, Native American women make 57 cents and Latinas make 54 cents, according to the National Women’s Law Center. Though Asian women tend to be paid 87 cents on their white male counterparts’ dollar, the NWLC says, “the wage gap is substantially larger for some subgroups of Asian women.”
Accenture identified three main drivers aggravating the challenges young women face, the first of which was experience with digital technology. While 77% of young men said they’d had digital tech experience since graduating — e.g., taking a coding class or working in their company’s IT department — just 62% of women said the same. And young women were a third less likely to be proactively learning digital skills.
“I think there is inherent bias in systematically how work is distributed to people — and often, I think there tends to be a bias that men are good at technology, and so we’re going to give men more of the technology opportunities,” Mary Hamilton, a managing director of the Accenture Technology Labs, told Moneyish. It’s also possible that women underreport their own proficiency in digital technology, she added.
Young men also enjoy better access than young women to professional development and/or leadership training at a rate of 70% versus 60%, the report found; 45% percent of young men report having access to regular training, compared to 38% of young women. And just half of young women say they have access to a mentor post-education and at the beginning of their careers, while 55% report working at an organization without a women’s network.
“When you think about the professional infrastructure that makes people successful, it’s professional training; it’s having mentors; it’s having networks that can lift you up,” Hamilton said.
But in organizations in which the 40 workplace factors that Accenture says are proven to impact women’s advancement are most prevalent, young women are more likely to become managers. Their satisfaction is far greater and their retention is far higher, the report found.
Those 40 factors are grouped into the categories of having a bold, diverse leadership team that creates and shares equality goals; taking comprehensive action to institute family-friendly policies, remain bias-free and support both genders; and fostering an empowering environment that gives workers flexibility and “the freedom to be creative, to be innovative, for people to bring their whole selves to work,” Hamilton said.
Supervisors and managers can proactively examine the system by which work gets assigned, Hamilton added, and make sure women are getting an equal opportunity to take on meaningful, impactful work. (So-called office housework, emotional labor and important but low-status work often disproportionately fall to women and people of color, she pointed out.)
As for women starting out in their careers, Hamilton advised them to take opportunities to gain technology skills, seek out the right kind of mentors, and take on high-value or high-visibility work when they’re given a choice — as well as paying attention to the message leadership is sending about its commitment to diversity. “It’s about being purposeful in their career,” she said.
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