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May 22, 2009
Women Making Salary Gains, Earning Majority of Degrees
A new study has found that women are earning the majority of college degrees and making significant gains in pay. The same study highlighted work-life balance difficulties currently being experienced by both genders.

The 2008 National Study of the Changing Workforce, released in 2009 by the Families and Work Institute sought to learn more about Millennials or Generation Y employees (born between 1982 and 2000).

Among the studies findings were that women’s salaries have been gradually increasing. The study stated that employed women 20 to 24 years old in 2007 who were paid on an hourly basis earned 90% of what the men did; although for women of all ages, the hourly pay was 82% of the hourly pay of men. This is an increase of 24 percentage points since 1979, according to the study.

The study also noted that women in double-income households were contributing more to family income during 2008 than in 1997. According to the study, women contributed an average of 39% of annual family income in 1997 and 44% in 2008. In addition, 26% of women living in dual-earner couples had annual earnings of at least 10 percentage points higher than that of their spouses or partners, up from 15% in 1997.

Another interesting statistic highlighted in the 2008 study was that women earned 58% of all bachelor’s degrees and 60% of master’s degrees during the 2005-2006 academic year (the latest available statistics from the U.S. Department of Education). These figures are projected to be 60% and 63% by 2016. Women are also expected to earn 54% of doctoral and professional degrees by 2016.

Work-Life Challenges

In addition to salary concerns, another area that employers should take note of is work-life concerns and issues. The study showed an increase in employed fathers, particularly in the Millennial group, spending more time with their children. The study states, "On average, employed fathers of all ages spend 3 hours per workday with children under 13 today, compared with 2 hours in 1977 [mothers are at 3.8 hours]. Today's Millennial fathers spend 4.3 hours per workday; mothers under 29 today average 5 hours [per workday]."

In 1992, 21% of women said that their spouses or partners took as much or more responsibility for the care of their children as they did, and by 2008, the percentage rose to 31%, according to the study.

Childcare responsibilities and other tasks have increased the level of work-life conflict experienced by men, according to the study: "Men’s work-life conflict has increased significantly from 34% in 1977 to 45% in 2008, while women's work-life conflict has risen less dramatically from 34% to 39%."

HR professionals and corporate leaders should consider whether their work-life programs and services are adequately meeting the needs of their youngest workers. The complete study and many work-life resources may be found at the Families and Work Institute website at

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