Closing the Gender Wage Gap: How Are Louisiana Women Doing?

Beth Willinger, PhD
Executive Director, Newcomb College Center for Research on Women
Tulane University

Recent studies of men’s and women’s earnings report that the earnings gap is closing.1 For example, in 1960, women who worked full-time, year-round in the United States earned on average 60.7 percent of the wages earned by men who worked full-time, year round. Over the past 40-some years, the gap has narrowed and in 2002, women earned on average 76 percent of men’s wages.2

Progress toward narrowing the women’s-to-men’s earnings ratio has not been achieved equally by all US women, however. Women in Louisiana who work full-time, year-round earn on average just 68.5 percent of Louisiana men’s earnings, approximately seven percent less than the average for women nationally. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, this gap in the ratio of Louisiana women’s to men’s earnings is one of the largest among the states and the District of Columbia, with just three exceptions, Wyoming, Michigan and Alabama. However, it marks an improvement over 2000, when only Wyoming ranked lower.3

According to Census 2000, and reported in Table I, earnings for Louisiana women and men vary significantly by demographic group. Both Louisiana white male and female workers earn more than their African American, Asian, or Hispanic counterparts. Although the differences among women are smaller than those among men, white women’s earnings ($24,377) are 37 percent higher than African American women’s earnings ($17,779) and approximately 13 percent higher than Asian and Hispanic women’s earnings.

The earnings of Louisiana Asian women, though higher than the earnings of African American and Hispanic Louisiana women, differ strikingly from the earnings of their counterparts nationally. Louisiana Asian women ($21,628) earn just 69.7 percent of the earnings of all Asian women in the US ($31,049).


Earnings Full-Time, Year-Round
Earnings less than $15,000
Earnings over $50,000

The Louisiana women’s-to-men’s earnings difference is widest for whites. White women’s earnings ($24,377) are just 66.4 percent as much as white men’s earnings ($36,712). Asian women’s earnings ($21,628) are 67.5 percent of Asian men’s earnings ($32,047); African American women’s earnings ($17,779) are 70.6 percent of African American men’s ($25,196); and Hispanic women’s earnings ($21,429) are 74 percent of Hispanic men’s earnings ($28,928). However, when women’s earnings are compared to those of all Louisiana men, the earnings ratio of African American women is lowest. African American women earn just 53.2 percent of the average earnings of Louisiana men.

The gender wage gap fluctuates depending on the earnings of both men and women. For example, men’s annual earnings could stagnate while women’s annual earnings decrease resulting in an increase in the wage gap. Despite Louisiana’s rich oil and natural gas resources, like its regional counterparts, Louisiana is an economically poor state. However, if a poor economy were to affect the earnings of women and men equally, the wages of women and men would both be low and the gap between the two would not be larger than average, as is the case in Arkansas, which is ranked 48th in median annual earnings of women (Louisiana is ranked 47th) but ranks 11th in the gender wage gap.5 That is not the case in Louisiana where the wages for men are substantially higher than the wages for women. Annual earnings for Louisiana men are 9.9 percent below the average of men’s wages nation wide, while the annual earnings for Louisiana women are 18.9 percent lower than women’s wages nationally.

The purpose of this paper is to explore why the ratio of women’s earnings to men’s is so great in Louisiana ranking it 48th among the states and the District of Columbia. Using US Census data and other state and national statistics, this analysis compares Louisiana women to Louisiana men and, when possible, to the average for women nationally on a number of indicators.

I. Explanations for the Gender Wage Gap

Several factors have been put forth to help explain the gender wage gap overall. One explanation considers labor force participation and experience. The logic is that men have greater job experience, more tenure in the workforce, and more education or job training than do women and hence earn higher wages. Another explanation considers obstacles in the labor market such as the concentration of women in fairly few occupations and the undervaluing of female-dominated jobs. Others believe discrimination accounts for the wage gap and that despite education, labor force participation, or equal labor market qualifications, women are paid less than men.

A. Labor force participation

The employment of women, and especially the employment of women with children, has been one of the most dramatic changes in the economic situation of our country in the past several decades.6 In 1970, 40 percent of women 16 years old and older were in the workforce in the United States, and the workforce was approximately 38 percent female. Today, just under 60 percent of women participate in the labor force, and the workforce is 46.5 percent female.7

Women in Louisiana have been slower to enter and participate in the workforce than women nationally. In 2002, 60.2 percent of US women were in the labor force while just 54.2 percent of Louisiana women were in the workforce, ranking Louisiana 50th among the states and the District of Columbia in female labor force participation. Only West Virginia had fewer women in the workforce with 51.3 percent. 8

In every age group, the labor force participation of Louisiana women is lower than the participation for women nationally. However the differences are most pronounced among women in the 16-19 year age group (10.3 percent lower for Louisiana women than women nationally) and women in the 55 to 59 year age group (8.8 percent lower for Louisiana women). The majority of working women, both in Louisiana and nationally, are in the 25-54 year age group. Nationally, 70.1 percent of women in this age group are employed whereas 65.1 percent of Louisiana women are.9

Census 2000 does not provide information concerning employment history (i.e., years in the labor force; years worked full or part-time) to allow a determination as to how tenure in the labor force correlates with wages. However, the much slower entry of Louisiana young women into the labor force and the lower labor force participation rate among women in the 55-59 year age group (women who would have been 20-24 years old in the early 1970s when women began entering the labor force in large numbers) suggest that Louisiana women have less tenure in the workforce than women nationally and thus may not achieve the higher wages associated with experience and time on the job.

Several factors might account for lower employment rates including unemployment, lack of employment opportunities, and child care responsibilities, among others. As one might expect, the unemployment rates for both Louisiana men and women are above the national average. However, the current unemployment rate for Louisiana women, 4.1 percent, although substantially higher than the national average for women, 3.3 percent, does not fully account for Louisiana women’s lower labor force participation.10

Birth and care of children are most often the reasons given for women to leave the labor force either temporarily or permanently, and the reasons often given to justify women’s lower earnings relative to men’s. Thus comparing the employment of women with children under six years of age may give some indication of women’s labor force participation over time. The labor force participation rates for women with children under six years are almost identical for Louisiana women and women nationally, 63.2 percent vs. to 63.5 percent, respectively.11 There is a substantial difference however, in the percent of female householders (with and without own children) with no husband present. In Louisiana, 16.6 percent of the Family Households are headed by a woman; whereas nationally, 12.2 percent of Family Households are headed by a woman. The higher percent of female headed households in Louisiana might lead one to predict a higher rate of employment for women, since presumably the female householder has economic responsibility for herself and her children, if any. Therefore, neither having children under six years of age nor household type appear to be associated with Louisiana women’s lower labor force participation and wages relative to women’s nationally.

B. Education and Training

The majority of US and Louisiana women age 25 years and older have a high school education. In fact, in recent years the difference in women’s and men’s education has been diminishing and women have been making great strides in increasing their education level. According to Census 2000, 75.8 percent of Louisiana women and 73.7 percent of Louisiana men over age 25 years have a high school diploma or higher. Thus while more Louisiana women than men have attained a high school education or higher, Louisiana women, and particularly African American and Asian women in Louisiana, are significantly below the US average for women’s educational attainment. Nationwide, 80.7 percent of women and 80.1 percent of US men have a high school diploma or higher.12

Similarly, the drop-out rate for Louisiana high school females in grades 10-12 is lower than for Louisiana males (5.9% vs.7.6% respectively) yet markedly higher than the drop-out rate for females (4.1%) and males (5.5%) nationally.13

The fact that fewer Louisiana women attain a high school education than women nationally has consequences for employment and earnings. While men with a high school education can obtain relatively high-paying jobs with fringe benefits, for example in construction and transportation; women with a high school education tend to obtain jobs in the service industry, or as sales clerks and receptionists that pay the minimum wage, offer little security and few health or retirement benefits.

In the past several decades, postsecondary education or training has become essential for admission to a host of jobs in the fields with the highest growth, mainly computer technology and communications, making a high school education a mere stepping stone for advanced training and employment.

Data from the Louisiana Educational System indicate that more Louisiana women are continuing their education beyond high school than are Louisiana men. In 2003, women comprised 60.5 percent of the total student enrollment and earned 61.9 percent of all degrees at Louisiana’s public institutions of higher education. However, women earned 72 percent of the degrees at the Associate or Certificate level; 60.5 percent of the degrees at the Bachelor’s level; and less than half (47%) of the doctoral and professional degrees, suggesting that women are continuing to direct their efforts to education and training at the lower educational levels.14

According to the 2000 Census, the proportion of Louisiana women age 25 years and older who have attained a bachelor’s degree or higher continues to be below the rates of Louisiana men and US men and women. In Louisiana, 18.2 percent of the women and 19.4 percent of the men have achieved a bachelor’s degree or higher. This compares to 22.8 percent of women and 26.1 percent of men nationally.15 The major differences between the rates of Louisiana women and men in attaining a bachelor’s degree or higher are in the age groups above 45 years. Therefore, if the present trend of women’s higher enrollment and graduation from postsecondary institutions continues, we would anticipate women and men achieving equity in education within the next several decades. Despite the probability of educational equity in the relatively near future, there are several reasons why the concern for educational equity is particularly important and why it is essential for Louisiana women to achieve education levels comparable to those for women nationally.

1. The more education women have, the greater their children’s educational attainment will be. Thus educating women is a way of raising the educational level for the entire state.

2. Education is even more critical for women than for men in determining labor force participation and economic success. Education improves job choices and the more education women have, the more likely they are to work.

3. Women and men are not rewarded equally for their educational attainment. In today’s labor market, women with a bachelor’s degree ($40,900) earn about $148 per week more than a man with a high school education ($33,206); while a woman with a master’s degree ($48,952) earns $137 per week less than a man earns with a bachelor’s degree ($56,077) (Table II.).

TABLE II: THE WAGE GAP BY EDUCATION: Median annual earnings in 2002 for full-time, year-round workers, 25 years and older.16

H.S. Grad.
      Non-Hispanic whites
      Non-Hispanic whites

As Table II reveals, at every educational level and for every ethnic/racial grouping, men earn more than women in the United States. (Unfortunately this information is not available by state.) Women with a high school education ($25,231) earn on average 76 percent of the wages men with a high school education earn ($33,206); women with a bachelor’s degree ($40,900) earn on average 73 percent of the salary earned by men with a bachelor’s degree ($56,077); and women with a master’s degree ($48,952) earn on average 72.7 percent of the salary earned by men with a master’s degree ($67,281). The wage gap does not disappear when the educational level of women and men is the same, in fact, it increases slightly. Thus it is not education, in and of itself, that accounts for the differences in wages between women and men in Louisiana or elsewhere.

Women tend to select, and to be encouraged to pursue, education and training in traditionally female fields. Of the degrees awarded by Louisiana’s public institutions in 2002-03, women earned only 12 percent of the degrees awarded in Construction Trades, Mechanics and Repair, Production and Transportation; 38 percent of the degrees in Computer and Information Science; and 18.5 percent of the Engineering degrees. In contrast, women earned 81.2 percent of the degrees awarded in Education; 84 percent of the degrees in Library Science; and 92.6 percent of the degrees in Home Economics. In the Health Professions and Related Fields, women earned 80 percent of all degrees. However, 80 percent of the Health Professions degrees earned by women were at the certificate, associate or bachelor’s level, but just 11 percent at the Master’s level and 9 percent at the MD or PhD level. The distribution of degrees in the Health Professions implies that women are interested in the health sciences but are pursuing their interests as nurses’ aides and nurses, not as physicians.17

C. Occupational Segregation

Another explanation put forth to account for the gap in earnings between women and men is that women and men “choose” to work in different occupations and industries. Thus, the same interests expressed by women and men when choosing an academic course of study are manifest in the workforce. In Louisiana and in the US generally, more than half of all women workers hold sales, clerical and service jobs. The five leading occupations of employed US women are: Pre-school and kindergarten teacher (98.3 % female), Secretary (96.3% female), Receptionist (93.2%female), Bookkeeper, accounting, and auditing clerk (91.4% female), Teacher assistant (90.9% female) and Registered nurse (90.2.9% female).18

Studies show that the more an occupation is dominated by women and/or people of color, the less it pays. However, women do not choose to earn less: jobs dominated by women are undervalued and pay less. For example, Service Station Attendant and Personal/Home Care Aides are two occupations that require similar job training (short term training and experience) and skills (person-oriented, good communicator). However, in Louisiana, the position of Service Station Attendant, a traditionally male-dominated field, pays $7.64 per hour ($15,900 annually) while the occupation of Personal/Home Care Aide, with a large female concentration, pays just $6.36 per hour ($13,240). Similarly, Maids and housekeepers in Louisiana earn on average $6.58 per hour ($13,680 annually) while the traditional male jobs of Janitor earn $7.41 per hour ($15,420 annually) and Groundskeeper earn on average $8.42 an hour ($17,520 annually).19


Executive, administrative, managerial 11.4% 14.2% 14.9%
Professional specialty 19.7 12.1 18.9
Technicians and related support 5.6 2.4 3.8
Sales 14.6 9.7 12.5
Administrative support and clerical 22.6 4.9 22.4
Service occupations 18.0 11.3 18.1
Precision production, craft, repair 1.9 21.8 1.9
Mach. operaors, assembler, inspector 2.2 5.9 3.6
Transportation and material moving 1.1 8.1 .9
Handlers, equip. cleaners, helpers 2.0 5.6 1.8
Farming, forestry and fishing 1.1 4.0 1.1

Table III shows the distribution of the labor force by occupation. Note that just 11 percent of Louisiana women are in the top Executive, Administrative or Managerial positions. Only Idaho and Iowa have fewer women in these positions. Louisiana ranks 28th among the states and the District of Columbia for having women employed in service jobs and 29th in the percent of women in the traditional male occupations listed as Precision Production, Craft and Repair. One of the truly bright spots is the category of Professional Specialty. Louisiana ranks 12th and is tied with New Hampshire for the percent of women in Professional Speciality occupations, which includes teachers, librarians, social workers, and health care practitioners.21 Although women in the Professional Speciality occupations are largely in the traditionally female professions of nursing, social work, education and library science, these positions offer the highest salaries and wages among the traditional female occupations. In addition, current efforts to build New Orleans as a health sciences center may serve to increase opportunities and wages associated with health care professions.

D. Discrimination

A recent study published by Barbara Bergmann estimates that approximately 22 percent of the gender pay gap is attributable to discrimination. Citing a 1979 study, Bergmann reports almost half of the wage gap between women and men, then 40 percent, was attributed to differences between women and men in education, job experience, and “labor force attachment.” Analyzing 2002 data, Bergmann argues that gender differences in education, age, and “labor force attachment” have largely disappeared, while factors such as the presence of children have an estimated increase on women’s wages. Bergmann concludes that “discrimination accounts for substantially the entire pay gap, and that women who work full time would be earning about as much as men were it not for the discrimination against them.”22 The current class action suit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. claiming that female employees were “assigned to the lowest paying positions with the least chance of advancement” highlights the nature of the discrimination against women.23

Discrimination operates in subtle ways to affect decisions by both employees and employers. Some of the choices regarding occupation can certainly be attributed to individual interest and the culture of residents in the state. At the same time, the decision as to who gets hired, and who gets a training slot, for example as a river boat pilot, is controlled by the employer, and an employer’s decision not to hire women or provide training opportunities to women is a form of discrimination.

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 makes it illegal to pay women lower rates for the same job strictly on the basis of their sex. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex and national origin (to begin, making it illegal for newspapers to print sex-segregated job listings). Yet despite these laws, and despite the increase in female headed households and two-paycheck families, attitudes still prevail defining the male as the primary breadwinner who employers are justified in hiring over a woman and justified in paying more. A woman might aspire to become a plumber, yet existing attitudes by employers and other employees may operate in such a way as to discourage her job application in a non-traditional field, or she may find, if accepted for a non-traditional job, that the door opens to an unwelcoming work environment.

The structure of occupations and the educational system continues to reflect antiquated assumptions about the “typical worker” who is defined as male and who has little, if any, personal day-to-day responsibility for housework, child or elder care, personal or domestic. Thus the absence of flexible work schedules, sick leave, childcare facilities at educational institutions or work places, the failure of welfare programs to support women through completion of their education, reliable transportation, or assumptions by grammar schools that mothers are available 24/7 also serve as forms of discrimination against women workers.


Based on the statistical evidence provided, several facts have been suggested that might account for the relatively low wages of Louisiana women compared to the wages of Louisiana men and women nationally.

1. Fewer Louisiana women participate in the labor force than women nationally and it is likely that those who are engaged in the workforce were older when they began to work and experienced more interruptions in their employment than women on average nationally.

2. Louisiana women earn considerably less when they do work.
3. Louisiana women are below the US average for women in educational attainment at every level, and below the educational attainment level of Louisiana men at the higher educational levels.

4. Louisiana women are represented in the traditional female fields of sales, service, and technical and clerical support positions at higher rates than women nationally (60.8% vs. 56.9%) and Louisiana men (28.3%); Louisiana women are under-represented in the top executive, administrative, and managerial positions.27 Whether by “choice” or discrimination, it appears that Louisiana’s labor force remains more sex segregated than most other state workforces with women employed in pink-collar jobs and service occupations that offer lower wages, less security and few fringe benefits. Louisiana women are less likely to be employed in the higher paying executive positions or traditional male blue-collar jobs.

5. The factors associated with the wage gap are more pronounced among African American women who appear to be carrying a disproportionant share of the burden of low wages and poverty. Given that one-third of the women in Louisiana are African-American, Louisiana needs to be particularly concerned about ways to encourage and promote postsecondary education or training and higher wage jobs among African American women.

II. Proposed Solutions to Closing the Earnings Gap Between Women and Men

While Louisiana has one of the largest gaps in earnings between women and men, Washington D.C. has the smallest. Women there not only have the smallest gender wage gap, earning 89.2 percent of men’s earnings, they also have the highest median annual earnings, the highest education levels, the highest percent of women in executive and managerial positions, and the highest percent of women-owned businesses in the country. At the same time, Washington DC has an exceedingly high number of women in poverty, ranking 48th among the states. Louisiana, by contrast, ranks low on virtually every measure of economic well-being, not just one.28

A. Raise the Minimum Wage

Raising the minimum wage is considered one of the quickest ways to close the gap between women’s and men’s earnings. Women comprise the majority of low-wage workers in this country making up 57.5 percent of US workers who earn the minimum wage or slightly above ($5.15-6.14 an hour).29

Women also are more likely than men to earn wages at or below the minimum wage. Approximately 4 percent of women nationally who are paid hourly rates reported wages at or below the Federal minimum wage. The disparity is greatest among women in the 16-24 year age group where almost 9 percent of hourly female employees earn at or below the minimum wage.30

Although data are not available for males/females by state, Louisiana is tied with Arkansas for 49th place (5.2 percent) in the percent of workers paid at or below the minimum wage, ranking behind Mississippi (5.3 percent) and West Virginia (5.6 percent).31 Because roughly two-thirds of all low-wage workers are in service-type occupations, mostly in food service jobs, we would expect Louisiana to have an even greater proportion of women in minimum wage jobs because we have a higher proportion of women in those jobs. In contrast, less than 1 percent of workers employed in precision production, craft, and repair positions earn at or below $5.15 an hour.

Another consideration in raising the minimum wage as a way of improving women’s earnings is that more women, and particularly women with children, and women who work part-time, spend a larger part of their employment years in minimum wage positions and are therefore more likely to have what is called a “minimum wage career.” As women move in and out of the labor force to care for children or the elderly, their re-entry into positions is often at the bottom, and at the minimum wage.32

B. Union membership

Because union members and those workers represented by unions have been paid consistently higher wages than non-union members, union membership and representation has been proposed as one way to raise women’s wages and decrease the wage gap between women and men.

Historically, women have had lower union representation than have men, although the rates of men have been declining from a recorded high of 20.1 percent in 1983 to the current level of 14.3 percent. Women’s rates on the other hand have been increasing slightly and are now 11.4 percent vs.10 percent in 1983.33

The vast majority of union members are in the public sector and include protective service workers (firefighters and police officers) and teachers. Union membership in Louisiana, as throughout the US has declined in the past several years. In 2003, just 6.5 percent of the Louisiana workforce belonged to a union (down from 8.4 percent in 2002) ranking Louisiana 42nd among the states and the District of Columbia in union membership. With 7.9 percent of the Louisiana workers represented by a union, Louisiana ranked 41st. among the states and DC in workers represented by a union.34 Unfortunately, the state level data is not reported by sex, but since women’s membership rates are lower than men’s overall, we would expect the rates for Louisiana women to be lower than the rates for Louisiana men, perhaps between three-to-four percent.

C. Non-Traditional Jobs

It was noted earlier that jobs dominated by women typically pay low wages and carry few fringe benefits; whereas jobs dominated by men typically pay higher wages and offer good benefits. Moreover, many non-traditional jobs such as police, firefighter, plumber, electrician provide on-the-job training or apprenticeship programs whereby the recruit is paid while being trained. Pink-collar jobs such as secretary, nurse, kindergarten teacher require the applicant to be trained prior to employment and thus to personally carry the costs of training without a means of doing so. Therefore, encouraging women to train for and/or enter non-traditional fields of employment is another way to increase women’s earnings.

Non-traditional jobs are those occupations in which women comprise 25 percent or less of the total workers. They include:

The Louisiana Department of Labor’s Office of Occupational Information Services provides a list of the “Top 25 Fastest Growing Occupations through 2010". By and large, these top growth jobs are in the same occupational fields the US Department of Labor lists as the ten fastest growing occupations in the next ten years (primarily those relating to computers, personal/home care aides and medical assistants).36


Occupational Title
10 Year New Job Growth
10 Year % Job Growth
2001 Average Hourly Wage
*Computer Software Engineers, Applications
*Network and Computer Systems Administrators
*Computer Software Engineers, Systems Software
*Computer Support Specialists
*Personal Finance Advisors
Manicurists and Pedicurists
Personal and Home Care Aides
Social and Human Service Assistants
*Network Systems and Data Communications Analysts
Desktop Publishers
*Database Administrators
Interpreters and Translators
*Computer and Information Scientists, Research
Medical Assistants
*Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agents
*Shoe and Leather Workers and Repairers
Multi-Media Artists and Animators
Funeral Attendants
*Helpers -- Roofers
Physician Assistants
Occupational Therapist Aides
Education Administrators, Preschool and Child Care Center/Program
Combined Food Preparation and Serving Workers, Including Fast Food
Home Health Aides

While few of these jobs are officially classified as non-traditional jobs, many of them are considered traditionally male-dominated occupations as indicated by an asterisk. As can be seen clearly from this table, traditional male occupations pay considerably more than the occupations employing females or those employing a more balanced workforce of women and men.

In addition to paying a higher entry level wage of $7.00-$9.00 per hour and a career ladder with pay between $20.00-$30.00 per hour, non-traditional jobs also typically offer good benefits, job security, on-the-job training, and an established career ladder making advancement far more possible and likely. Women moving into non-traditional jobs experience both immediate and long-term increased earnings. Given the high number of women headed households and the economic status of Louisiana families, non-traditional employment allows women to better support themselves and their families. The average annual income for a Louisiana firefighter is $27,190 compared to the median annual income of a Louisiana preschool teacher of $19,670.37

Many girls as well as boys grow up wanting to be a firefighter, and many women are just as capable of meeting the physical requirements of non-traditional jobs as are men. Women and men have a right to choose among a full range of occupations and to have equal access to those jobs. Employment in non-traditional occupations often carries intrinsic or psychological rewards for women as well as men. First, workers, regardless of sex, are more likely to remain in jobs that have higher incomes and offer some autonomy. Women in non-traditional jobs may also gain confidence in performing physical labor, take pride in learning new skills, and derive satisfaction from producing something. They might also take pride in knowing that they are opening the door for other women and serving as a role model for women and girls.

D. Increase the Number, Sales and Employment of Businesses Owned by Women

According to the Center for Women’s Business Research, women-owned business have grown in number and employment at nearly twice the rate of all privately-owned firms.38 Currently, women own 27.5 percent of Louisiana’s businesses ranking Louisiana 25th among the states and the District of Columbia in the number of privately-held, majority women-owned firms in 2004. Louisiana’s women-owned businesses rank 30th in employment and 30th in sales.39 Louisiana is built up of small businesses, rather than large corporations, and it is important for women to invest their creative potential and talents in the economic development of the state, and to have ownership in the state. Professional women who experience the “glass ceiling” often leave companies and firms to start their own businesses with the intent of raising their income levels. Increasing small business loan programs to encourage them to do so in Louisiana would help to increase the number and incomes of women in Administrative and Managerial positions. Moreover, women business-owners tend to employ more women.

E. Education

Efforts promoting educational opportunities for women, particularly African-American women need to be encouraged and expanded. Currently, women need the advantage provided by higher education both to get a job and to advance in one’s occupational field. Additional efforts need to be made at both the secondary and postsecondary levels to ascertain the skills, interests, and career goals of women and girls and to encourage them to explore a wider range of occupations consistent with those interests, particularly in non-traditional fields of employment. Partnerships with job training programs to reduce Louisiana’s occupational segregation, and to help women enter high-paying jobs where they are under-represented need to be developed in both the public and private sector. A well educated workforce also will encourage more economic development in the state in a wider range of occupations.

F. End Discrimination

Many believe that the progress toward closing the gender wage gap indicates that no government intervention is warranted to eliminate the earnings gap and achieve pay equity. Others believe that waiting until 2050 or beyond, the estimated time for Louisiana women to achieve equal pay,40 minimally requires Louisiana to better enforce existing pay equity laws, and preferably to develop some aggressive strategies for achieving equal pay. A recent step in this direction is House Bill No. 1193, introduced by Representative Karen Carter, and passed in the Regular Session, 2004, creating the Equal Pay Commission. The purpose of the Commission is to conduct a study of “wage disparities, in both the public and private sector, between men and women, and between minorities and non-minorities” to determine factors which lead to such disparities. A much awaited final report is due on or before February 1, 2006.


1. The earnings or wage gap is expressed as a percentage and is calculated by dividing the median annual earnings for women by the median annual earnings for men.

2. Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR). Fact Sheet - Publication #C353. "The Gender Wage Gap: Progress of the 1980s Fails to Carry Through." November 2003. See also US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, September 2003, Report 972. "Highlights of Women's Earnings in 2002."

3. IWPR. The Status of Women in the States. 2004. Appendix Table 3a; and IWPR The Status of Women in the States. 2002. Appendix IV.

4. US Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census (US Census). QT-P31. "Work Status in 1999 and Earnings in 1999 of Full-time, Year Round Workers by Sex: 2000." and PCT74A, B, D and H. "Median Earnings in 1999 (Dollars) by Work Experience in 1999 by Sex for the Population 16 Years and Over with Earnings." for Louisiana and US Summary File 3. Available at

5. IWPR. The Status of Women in the States. 2004. Appendix Table 3a.

6. US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). "Developments in women's labor force participation." Monthly Labor Review. September 1997.

7. BLS. Women in the Labor Force: A Databook. Table 2. "Employment status of the civilian noninstitutional population 16 years and over by sex, 1970 to 2002."

8. IWPR. The Status of Women in the States, 2002.

9. US Census 2000. QT-P24. "Employment Status by Sex: 2000" for Louisiana and US Summary File 3, Matrices P43 and PCT35. Available at

10. Ibid.

11. US Census 2000. P45. "Presence of Children under 18 Years by Age of Own Children by Employment Status for Females 16 Years and Over." Summary File 3, Available at

12. US Census 2000. QT-P20 "Educational Attainment by Sex: 2000" for the US and Louisiana. See also "Women and Education in Louisiana." for more information about the educational attainment of Louisiana women and men. Available at

13. Louisiana Department of Education. Office of the Superintendent. 2002-03. March 22, 2004 e-mail.

14. Louisiana Board of Regents. "Total Enrollment by Sex, by Student Level, by Residency, by Institution." For Fall 2002-2003.

15. US Census 2000. QT-20 "Educational Attainment by Sex:2000."

16. US Census, Current Population Survey, Annual Demographic Survey, March Supplement. 2003, Table PINC-03 "Educational Attainment - People 25 Years Old and Over, by Total Money Earnings in 2002, Work Experience in 2002, Age, Race, Hispanic Origin and Sex." Last revised October 21, 2003.

17. Louisiana Board of Regents. "2002-2003 Completers by Degree Level, Race, Gender and Residency."

18. BLS, Annual Averages 2003, Women's Bureau. "20 Leading Occupations of Employed Women Full-time Wage and Salary Workers 2003 Annual Average." Available at

19. Louisiana Department of Labor, Occupational Information Services: Louisiana Workforce Commission: Systems Solutions Consulting (Final January 2004). "State of Louisiana: Annual Demand for Top Occupations to the Year 2010."

20. BLS,"Geographic Profile of Employment and Unemployment in 2002" Bulletin 2564. Estimates for States. Table 15. "States: Percent distribution of employed persons by sex, race, Hispanic origin and occupation, 2002 annual averages.", and "Women in the Labor Force," February 2004. Table 10. "Employed persons by major occupation and sex, 1983 and 2002 annual averages." See also US Census, 2000. QT-P28. "Occupation by Sex - Percent Distribution: 2000" for the US and Louisiana.

21. Ibid.

22. Bergmann, Barbara R. "Discrimination against Women Persists into the Twenty-first Century." Unpublished manuscript. Newcomb Archives, Newcomb College Center for Research on Women.

23. Betty Dukes, et al. v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. available at:

24. US Census 2000. QT-P31. "Work Status in 1999 and Earnings in 1999 of Full-time, Year Round Workers by Sex: 2000." for Louisiana and US. Summary File 3. Available at

25. Ibid.

26. US Census, 2000. QT-P35. "Poverty Status in 1999 of Families and Non-family Householders: 2000." US and Louisiana.

27. BLS. Bulletin 2564. "Geographic Profile of Employment and Unemployment in 2002." and "Women in the Labor Force: A Databoook."

28. IWPR. The Status of Women in the States. 2004. Appendix Table 3c.

29. BLS. "Characteristics of Minimum Wage Workers: 2002."

30. Ibid.

31. Ibid.

32. Carrington, Wm. and Bruce Fallick. "Do Some Workers Have Minimum Wage Careers?" Month Labor Review, May 2001. Available at: Tulane University has pledged to pay all staff employees at least $1.00 over the minimum wage. Since Tulane is the largest private employer in New Orleans, Tulane helps to set the standards for other local industries that are seeking a well qualified staff and sets the competitive market wage rate.

33. BLS. "Union Membership (Annual)". Last modified January 21, 2004. http://www/

34. BLS. "Union Membership (Annual)". Table 5. "Union affiliation of employed wage and salary workers by state." Last modified January 21, 2004.

35. US Department of Labor, Women's Bureau. "Nontraditional Occupations for Women in 2003." Available at

36. LA Depart. of Labor. "State of Louisiana: Annual Demand for Top Occupations to the Year 2010."

37. Ibid.

38. Center for Women's Business Research. Women-Owned Businesses in 2004: Trends in the US and Fifty States. "Capturing the Impact: Women-Owned Businesses in the United States." Available at

39. Ibid.

40. AFL-CIO."The Long and Winding Road to Equal Pay: Slower Progress and Substantial Differences among States Mark the 1990s; Highlights for Working Women in Louisiana." Available at and "Working Women: Strategies for Achieving Equal Pay." Available at

Last revised September 2004

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