Out $7,000: California pay gap for women grows

California women appear to be losing ground in the pay-equality race. 

Fresh 2015 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows women’s median weekly earnings in the state running 15 percent below a similar benchmark for the pay of male workers. That gap – roughly equal to a $7,000 annual shortfall – is the widest since 2002. 

The report cites no reasons for the pay disparity, a subject of wide debate, noting the comparisons “do not control for factors that can be significant in explaining earnings differences, such as job skills and responsibilities, work experience, and specialization.” Nonetheless, the report does highlight how the pay of California’s female workers fares against male counterparts in the state and women across the nation. 

Here are five things my trusty spreadsheet told me: 

1. Growing gap

Women’s wage shortfall grew significantly in California in 2015, with the eighth largest percentage-point expansion in the pay disparity among the states.


Their median weekly wage was 84.8 percent of what men got in 2015 vs. 89.3 percent the year before. Still, only seven states had a smaller pay gap in 2015. Women also lost ground nationally: Wages were 81.1 percent of men in 2015 vs. 82.5 percent in 2014. 

California women are not alone. The gap grew in 31 states and Washington D.C., where the gap grew by the largest amount tracked: 8.6 percentage points in 2015. 

Curiously, in the 30 states that supported President Donald Trump in last year’s election, women averaged 79 percent of men’s wages vs. 82 percent in the states he lost.

2. More opportunity

At least, employment is up for California women.

California employers had 5.3 million female workers in 2015, up 3.2 percent in a year. That hiring, however, was outpaced by male workers in the state, who gained jobs at an annual rate of 4.7 percent. But California women did enjoy faster job growth than the nation’s 2.7 percent increase. 

Women in Trump states enjoyed twice the 2015 job growth (3.7 percent) as men (1.8 percent). South Dakota had the biggest growth in female workers, up 12.6 percent in 2015. Maine was worst, with a 4.9 percent drop. 

3. Pay cuts

Simple math explains how the pay gap grew in 2015: California women’s wages fell as pay for men rose.

California women’s median weekly pay of $775 for 2015 – 12th best nationwide – was down 1.3 percent for the year. That cut compares to a 4 percent rise in pay for California’s male workers to $914. Annualized, it adds up to $40,300 for women vs. $47,528 for men – a pricey divide in a state with a high cost of living.

Nationally, there was a 1 percent rise nationwide in women’s pay to $726 as pay fell in 23 states. Missouri dipped the most (down 5.7 percent), while Kentucky was best (up 12.7 percent.)

4. Man’s world

Men also dominate California’s worker count. 

Women made up 42.3 percent of the 12.6 million employed in the state in 2015.

That’s a smaller share than the nationwide pattern: 44.3 percent of U.S. workers were female. D.C. had the highest share of female workers at 49.8 percent. Utah was the low among the states at 36.9 percent.

5. Slow recovery

California women grabbed less of the post-Great Recession hiring spree as men claimed approximately two of every three new jobs – with fatter paychecks.

In 2010-15, female employment in the state grew by 600,000 jobs or a 12.7 percent jump. That trails the men’s 950,000 new jobs, 15 percent growth.

It’s a similar tale for pay. California women saw median earnings up 3.7 percent in five years vs. men’s pay hikes totaling 8.8 percent.

That’s how women’s pay shortfall went from 88.9 percent of men’s wages in 2010 to 84.8 percent five years later. 

Contact the writer: jlansner@scng.com

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Chris Alexakiswomen, C.A., economics