From the Director
Closing the Gender Pay Gap
By Elizabeth J. Clark, Ph.D., ACSW, MPH
1963, when the Equal Pay Act was signed, women made 59 cents for
every dollar earned by men. Last year, that gap narrowed to 77
In 2003, the General Accounting Office issued a special report
on women's earnings that substantiated that the national pay gap
is real. GAO found that even when accounting for demographic and
related factors such as occupation, industry, race, marital status
and job tenure, women working full-time earn an average of 80
cents for every dollar that men earn. This 20 percent earnings
gap cannot be explained by differences in work patterns or histories.
A 2004 Census Bureau report shows men earning more than women
in all 20 of the highest-paid occupations. And a 2005 research
report completed by the American Association of University Women
found that college-educated women earn only 72 percent as much
as college-educated men.
Given this history, we were not surprised when NASW's landmark
national study of social workers [April NASW News] found a gender
gap in salaries for social workers. The raw difference in average
salaries for women and men working full-time in a single social
work job was $12,045. After controlling for a number of factors
(such as age, race, geographic area, highest social work degree,
years of experience, rural/urban setting, license requirement,
size of caseload, and practice area), the salary gap dropped to
$7,052, or 14 percent. Social work is frequently referred to as
a female-dominated profession, but the numerical dominance of
women in social work has not translated into pay equity or equality.
The National Committee on Women's Issues became a standing committee
of NASW in 1975 to encourage activities aimed at the elimination
of sexism in the association, in the profession and in society.
In 1977, the NASW Delegate Assembly adopted a policy statement
on women's issues, which was revised in 1987, 1996 and again in
2005. The statement includes a commitment to work toward ensuring
equal pay for women and men with similar qualifications and responsibilities.
The 2005 statement urges "legislative and administrative
strategies that address pay equity and comparable worth initiatives
for increasing women's wages in both the public and private sectors.
. . ."
Pay inequity within the social work profession reflects that
in society at large, and NASW continues to work in support of
bills such as the Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act to
bring about legislative fairness.
An additional challenge is that jobs dominated by women are not
valued in the same way as men's jobs are. Studies have shown that
the more women and people of color fill an occupation, the less
With data now available from the national social work workforce
study, we, as a profession, are prepared to move forward in a
deliberate and concerted way to address workforce issues such
as salaries, pay equity, social work shortages and loan forgiveness.
In conjunction with the major social work associations in education,
research and practice, NASW will be launching a comprehensive
social work reinvestment initiative in the coming year. Stay tuned!
To comment to Elizabeth J. Clark: firstname.lastname@example.org
From May 2006 NASW News. © 2006 National
Association of Social Workers. All Rights Reserved. NASW News
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