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From the Director

Closing the Gender Pay Gap

In 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 cents.

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 it pays.

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:

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