Women make considerably less money than men in Maryland: 83 cents to the dollar, according to a study released last week.
Windsor Mill resident Alison Assanah-Carroll was not surprised by the finding from the National Partnership for Women & Families, which showed that nearly a half-century after the federal Equal Pay Act was enacted, women are still paid less than men, not only in Maryland but nationwide.
"It's not just a grave disparity, it's a travesty," said Assanah-Carroll, a former assistant regional census manager, who said that she earned less than her male counterparts even though she had better educational credentials and, in some cases, more experience.
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Assanah-Carroll, whose contract with the U.S. Department of Commerce ended in 2010, has struggled to find another senior-level administrative job — a difficulty she attributed to some employers' perception that women managers are more emotional and less commanding than men.
In Maryland, the wage gap is even greater for African-American women and Latinas, the analysis by the Washington-based National Partnership shows.
Moreover, the gap extends to the uppermost levels of management, with women holding just over 10 percent of board seats at Maryland-based public companies, according to a recent study by Network 2000, a local group that works to increase the number of women in boardrooms and executive suites.
The disparities hurt not only women and their families but the state's economy, experts say.
Using 2010 census data as well as 2011 figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the National Partnership analysis estimated that if the yearly gap between Maryland men's and women's median pay disappeared — a difference of $9,842 — working women could funnel that income into living expenses equaling 1.7 years worth of groceries, more than 2,400 gallons of gas or five months' worth of mortgage and utility payments.
Meanwhile, Network 2000 representatives point to studies showing that companies with three or more female board directors outperform other firms in measures such as return on sales and return on invested capital.
"With state economies struggling and women increasingly serving as the sole or co-breadwinners for their families, tens of thousands of dollars in lost wages each year takes a tremendous toll," said Debra L. Ness, the National Partnership's president.
Maryland fares better than the nation as a whole, where women are paid 77 cents for every dollar men make. Its wage gap was the fifth-smallest among the 50 states.
"But that is nothing to brag about," said Sarah Crawford, the director of workplace fairness for the National Partnership. "The wage gap is closing at a glacial pace of half a cent on the dollar each year. At that rate, we don't expect the gap to close until 40-plus years."
Also troubling are comparisons showing that women with children are paid less than women without children, but that men with children are paid more than men without children, Crawford said.
Race is also a major factor: In Maryland, African-American women earn $13,760 less than men, while Hispanic women earn $26,922 less, the data shows. The gap is between the median salary for the women and that of all men in the state.
Crawford said some of the wage gaps could be explained by the types of jobs men and women have traditionally sought and still seek, with women going into lower-paying fields than men.
But even with controls for education, experience and type of industry — all factors that can affect pay — "a significant amount of the pay gap remains unexplained, and that's the particularly troubling aspect," Crawford said.
The National Partnership's research was released to coincide with Equal Pay Day last Tuesday — the day that marks how far into the current year women must work to catch up with the amount men were paid the previous year, according to the group's research.
Equal-pay advocates hope to close what they see as loopholes in the Equal Pay Act of 1963 with the proposed Paycheck Fairness Act, which is designed to strengthen workplace protections for women. The federal legislation, which would prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who discuss pay, was rejected by the Senate in 2010 but has been reintroduced.
Separate research by the Washington-based Institute for Women's Policy Research looks at gender- based wage gaps on a national level by occupation. The findings show that median earnings for women are lower than men's in nearly all occupations.
Women-dominated fields pay less than those occupied mainly by men, said Ariane Hegewisch, a study director at the institute — who added that even within women-dominated occupations, men still make more.