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Wage gap between men and women almost closed for Millennials

Published: Friday, Dec. 20 2013 10:46 a.m. MST

"Young women are more likely to be enrolled in college," Parker says. "They are more likely to be getting bachelor's degrees. They're more likely to be getting many different types of graduate degrees."

Hymowitz says pushing for equal numbers may be fighting against the personal choices women make. "There is this assumption that in equal numbers they will want to be computer programmers," she says, "or in equal numbers they will want to be CEOs or in equal numbers they will want to give up time with their kids and work long hours. If you showed me that was what people wanted, if you had evidence for it, I would say fine. But where is the evidence?"

Still, Millennial women are starting out at near pay parity. But will it continue?

"Look at what happens to women when they are about 10 to 15 years into their career," Parker says. "They start having families and start having to balance those types of responsibilities."

And when family needs require a parent to sacrifice, according to the survey, it is the women who take time off, cut back on hours or even quit their job far more often than men. Women are also more likely to turn down promotions because of family responsibilities than men are. Although men are doing more than in the past, Parker says there is still an imbalance.

"Women hit this downward slide when they have to manage all these competing responsibilities of family and work," Parker says. "When push comes to shove on these things it is usually the mom who takes time away."

Hymowitz says there are differences between the sexes in relation to taking care of children. "So much of the pay gap, in recent years, is a function of women taking time off and reducing their time at work," she says.

The majority of women say being a parent makes it harder to advance in their field of work. Only 16 percent of men say being a dad makes it harder at work.

Hymowitz speculates there might have been different results if the Pew study took mothers out of the survey. She says it may be that the remaining childless Millennial women even surpassed Millennial men's wages.

Removing barriers

"There are barriers and work hours and flexibility issues that I think we can chip away at for the sake of both men and women," Hymowitz says, "so that they can have more flexibility to combine work and family. I have no problem with that ... but should that be because our ultimate goal is absolute parity in every field? I don't think so."

Parker says Pew asked women who took these career interruptions for their work and asked them if they were glad they did it.

Both men and women who had to take steps to adjust work because of family say it was worth it; 94 percent say they are glad they did it.

Although she says she recognizes that many families couldn't afford to do so, Parker says she also took time away from her career to spend more time with her young children.

"I took five years," she says. "I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world."

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