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Wage gap between men and women almost closed for Millennials

Published: Friday, Dec. 20 2013 4:00 a.m. MST

A new study by Pew shows the wage gap is closing among Millennials, but will it last as the workers get older and make decisions about starting a family?

Cathy Yeulet, Getty Images/Hemera

A study from Pew Research shows that Millennial women (ages 25 to 34) are now earning 93 cents for every dollar earned by Millennial men. The gap dropped to 7 percent from 33 percent back in 1980.

This is not all good news, however.

Behind those numbers are other problems — and ongoing social trends that predict that parity may be fleeting.

Education and equality

"Millennial women are in this really strong position relative to men in terms of their wages, and we also know they are exceeding men in terms of educational attainment now," says Kim Parker, director of the Pew Social & Demographic Trends Project.

Pew finds that women ages 18 to 24 are more likely than similarly aged men to be in college (45 percent vs. 38 percent in 2012). Women ages 25 to 32 are also more likely to have completed college than men in that age group.

But these gains haven't entirely changed perceptions yet.

"When you look at their attitudes, they are really skeptical if the playing field is going to be level for them and they wonder what their chances are going to be to get ahead relative to men," Parker says. "Seventy-five percent of the Millennial women say that more change needs to come about in order to bring about workplace equality."

Fifty-seven percent of Millennial men also say the country needs to continue making changes to achieve gender equality in the workplace.

"When it comes to looking at corporate America and government, there are some more prominent women now," says Parker. "But the statistics there are pretty unbalanced."

Pew's report quotes statistics from nonprofit research group Catalyst, which finds that women currently hold 4.2 percent of Fortune 500 CEO positions and 4.5 percent of Fortune 1000 CEO positions.

Millennial women are less likely than young men to work in a top leadership position. Thirty-four percent of young women say they do not want to be a boss or top manager — 10 percent more often than young men.

"Doesn't that mean there is going to be a pay gap?" says Kay Hymowitz, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor at City Journal. "You could argue that girls are not socialized to be leaders … but they have been primed from day one for leadership."

Few experience bias

Although 75 percent of Millennial women say change is needed, only 15 percent say they have been discriminated against because of their gender.

"When they take a broad view, they say the playing field is not level and that they will not get a fair shake," Parker says. "But when we ask about their work and whether men and women get paid the same for doing the same job they say, 'Oh, yeah, we are paid equally at my workplace and women have the same opportunity to advance as men.' That is an interesting contradiction."

Although the main reason the gap has closed is because women are earning more (they have risen by 25 percent over the last three decades), men are also bringing home less.

"This is a big part of the story," Parker says.

From 1980 to 2012, the median hourly wage for men has dropped 4 percent. For younger men, the drop has been 20 percent.

And it is even worse for young men without a college degree, Parker says.

Pushing for equal numbers

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