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Gender wage gap narrows as more women move into high-skilled jobs

Gender pay gap narrows
Gender pay gap narrows 01:02

Women still take home smaller average paychecks than men, but the gender wage gap is narrowing as more females go to college and enter the labor market better equipped to meet workplace demands. That's according to a study released Thursday by Pew Research Center, which found that for every dollar a guy earns, his female counterpart is making 85 cents. 

While not a level playing field, the report's findings mark progress from decades past. 

In 1980, the average hourly wage of women was 67% of the average hourly wage of men, or $15 versus $23, Pew found. By 2018, women earned 85% as much as men, or $22 versus $26, on average. 

Putting that another way, the gender gap narrowed from 33 cents to the dollar in 1980 to 15 cents to the dollar in 2018.

"That's before you make any adjustment for differences in what men and women do in the labor market," Rakesh Kochhar, a senior researcher at Pew and author of the report told CBS MoneyWatch. "The gender wage gap is persistent, and it's been around for decades. A part of the story is why the gender wage gap still exists."

Tips for closing the gender wage gap 03:10

The gains that have been made come amid rising levels of education among women, with 40% of female working holding a college degree in 2018, compared to 35% of working men. That's brought on a surge of women moving from lower-paying jobs like food preparation and waitressing into higher-skilled positions in finance and law. 

Employers are seeking out workers with analytical skills to fill jobs including database architects, informatics nurse specialists and video game designers, Pew said.

Harder to ascertain is how much cultural norms push men and women into different types of work. In 2018, some 61% of women worked in fields where social and managerial skills are needed, such as administrative support, health care, sales and education, while 34% of men were employed in jobs requiring mechanical skills like construction and farming, Pew found.

Pew's report comes on the heels of figures from the U.S. Labor Department showing women now outnumber men in the U.S. workforce, with the share of women drawing a paycheck edging above 50% in December.

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