Women in the workforce report shows slight progress, continued lags

Michigan’s gender pay gap ranks in the bottom half of the nation, coming in 30th. According to the report, the gap widens even further when accounting for factors like ethnicity and race.

Michigan women who work full time are earning only a little over 81% of what men make, on average. The pay gap still exists when accounting for factors like occupation.

That’s among the key findings in a new Women in the Michigan Workforce study from the state.

It found the gap widened even further when accounting for factors like ethnicity and race. Black and Hispanic women made 68 and 67 cents on the dollar, respectively, that a white, non-Hispanic man made in 2022.

Trisha Schlegel is an economic analyst with the Michigan Center for Data and Analytics.

“It’s important to note that even though the areas women tend to hold the majority of employment are service related, and these are oftentimes lower paid areas, the disparity in earnings cannot be fully explained by women selecting these careers,” Schlegel said during a presentation Monday.

Michigan’s gender pay gap ranks in the bottom half of the nation, coming in 30th. Meanwhile, Vermont and California had the smallest pay gaps in the nation at 89%.

That said, Schlegel said the new 81% figure is a step in the right direction.

The latest study is a followup to a previous report released in 2021. That one found an average pay gap of about 78 cents on the dollar for full-time workers.

“We know that the pandemic shifted a lot of things in the workplace as well. So it’ll be very interesting to see where that gap takes us in these next few years,” Schlegel said.

Aside from highlighting wage inequity, the most recent data found women tend to have higher levels of education compared to men. Yet, they’re underrepresented in high-wage industries.

Research cited shows women earned nearly three out of every five Michigan certificates and degrees awarded in 2022. But they only made up less than 40% of the degrees and certificates awarded in STEM, or science, technology, engineering, and math fields.

Instead, women were overrepresented in sectors like healthcare and education.

“Women made up nearly 80% of the employment in Healthcare and social assistance but earned approximately 52% of what men earned in the industry,” the report said, referencing U.S. Census Bureau data from 2022.

Meanwhile, Michigan’s unemployment rate among women bounced back to pre-pandemic levels last year.

But women are still participating in the workforce at a rate around 10% lower than men.

Schlegel said beyond that, women faced a greater pandemic-related drop than men, and have also been slower to return. The numbers began to separate at the beginning of 2022.

“The labor force for women has been on a steady increase since the later part of 2022, and is nearly recovered. However, we are still observing a remaining loss of roughly 2,000 women as of the end of 2023,” she said.

The study also highlighted national data around the effect having young children had on women in the workforce.

National figures found women with children under 5 years old join the workforce at a rate over 20% lower than men with children under 5, possibly reflecting expectations that women handle childcare.

When discussing the report, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer highlighted several initiatives the state is embarking on that she suggested could help address root causes of inequity. Her mentions included the MI Tri-Share program.

“This is a program that slashes the cost of childcare for working families by two-thirds. The state picks up a third, the employer picks up a third, and the family picks up a third. And this is something that’s really been incredibly successful, and it started here,” Whitmer said.

Whitmer also highlighted scholarship and apprenticeship opportunities.

The report found a small increase in the portion of women taking part in registered apprenticeship programs.

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