Blog for Fair Pay Day 2011: Why Part-Time Beauty Work Widens the Gender Gap

I’m excited to be participating in my second Blog for Fair Pay Day event (it’s also the theme of our latest Feminist Fashion Bloggers group post).

But, boy am I sad that things aren’t any better than they were when we did this last year. Working women in the United States are still making less than 80 cents for every dollar earned by men. We celebrate (mourn?) Equal Pay Day on April 12 because this is the day when women’s earnings finally catch up to what men earned in 2010. Yeah, that’s a heck of a gap.

So, what does this wage gap look like in the beauty industry? As you can see from this fun Bureau of Labor Department bubble chart, women both earn the least and take home the smallest percentage of male salaries in categories like “wholesale & retail trade,” “leisure & hospitality” and “other services.” Gosh, those sure sound like places I’d categorize jobs like “Sephora cashier,” “salon worker” and “freelance makeup artist.” What’s the deal? 

For starters, there’s the imbalance in our demographics. The majority of salon owners, cosmetic company CEOs and other top-level folk are men. Most of the workers who shave your big toe calluses and sweep up your hair cuttings are women. That’s easy math.

But here’s a fun fact: Women actually earn more in part-time positions than men, says the Labor Department (as reported in the New York Times). Which means your part-time hair stylist might be doing better than your boyfriend’s part-time barber if they’re both working between 5 and 40 hours per week. That sounds kinda cool, right? Until you check the stats and realize that over 66 percent of all part-time workers are women. And part-time workers obviously earn less than full-time workers (and have less health insurance or paid time off to take care of themselves or a sick kid). So it still adds up to women coming up short.

Of course, a good portion of those part-time workers may not want to to work full-time. They’ve got kids, they’ve got lives, they’re happy to off-ramp a bit and bring home less bacon, especially if they have a spouse picking up the bacon slack. Which is awesome for them. Though it would be more awesome if our employers gave benefits to part-time workers and generally made it easier for all workers, male and female, to have a life and a well-paying job. Me and my crazy notions.

Meanwhile, in this post-recession era, we’ve still got plenty of underemployed women who need to be earning more, but can’t get their employer to cough up the hours. And this is particularly rampant in industries like beauty, which rely heavily on low-income part-time workers — and then outsource their paychecks even further by making customers pick up 20 percent via tipping.

And here’s another fun fact: The estimated gender wage gap for 2011 is $10,849. Which, incidentally, is also about the average beauty school tuition.

So, hey, why don’t you tell your members of Congress to co-sponsor the Paycheck Fairness Act? That would be so neat. Then maybe when I blog about this next year, we can be less sad.

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3 Comments

Filed under Fashionable Feminist, Government Watch

3 responses to “Blog for Fair Pay Day 2011: Why Part-Time Beauty Work Widens the Gender Gap

  1. It’s so upsetting that such gender inequity still exists. And per usual, it’s probably those who are already marginalized in some way who are hardest hit.

  2. “Though it would be more awesome if our employers gave benefits to part-time workers and generally made it easier for all workers, male and female, to have a life and a well-paying job. Me and my crazy notions.”

    My thoughts exactly! Luckily the guys of my generation are starting to demand this, too. Let’s hope they don’t cave in once they earn money and have a partner with intentions to start a family, and all of society’s expectations come crashing down on them…

  3. I never thought about the fact that women do more part time jobs. The same thing happens though in other pink collar professions with mostly full time jobs. In public relations, for example, women hold most of the jobs but men hold most of the management positions. As someone about to start a career in PR, I find it troublesome.

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