New Study Shows Gender Gap in Pay, Benefits, & Promotions for Women in Retail

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Women will be working extra hours this holiday season, for less pay. New York, NY— Today the Retail Action Project (RAP) and Stephanie Luce of the City University of New York (CUNY)’s Murphy Institute released data that shows a dramatic gender gap in wages in the retail industry (see data sheet below). In a survey of 435 retail workers at national retail companies, the median gender gap between women and men is the difference between $9.00/hr and $10.13/hr. Women were also found to be less likely to receive benefits from employers, or receive promotions. Hit hardest were 53% of Black women and 77% of Latina women earning less than $10 per hour.

Most retailers greatly benefited from strong Black Friday weekend sales, as evidenced by the recent surge in hiring. “We’re happy that more people have the opportunity to go back to work, but the majority of jobs created are low-wage, part time, and seasonal. The retail industry is thriving and can do better,” said Retail Action Project’s Carrie Gleason.

Retail businesses such as Old Navy, Sears, and Toys R Us plan to capitalize on the holidays even further by instituting around-the-clock sale hours. Since women are overrepresented in retail across the country, it is women who will be working extra hours in the lead up to Christmas, for less pay than their male counterparts. “After working at the same store for over three years, I earn only $7.90 per hour. On these earnings I support my mom who lives on disability, contribute money for rent, food, transportation, and cover my costs for college. With the holidays, it gets even tougher,” says RAP member Talisa Erazo.

National women’s groups are concerned. Terry O’Neill, the President of the National Organization for Women (NOW) says that “The continued gap between women and men in the workplace is both discriminatory and harmful to families. Equal opportunity in the workplace is important – especially in a growth industry like retail that is dominated by women. And this means not just fair wages but access to career advancement and benefits such as health insurance and retirement security. The fact that women are less likely to have benefits in these jobs has serious implications for women’s and children’s health, especially since many of these workers don’t even get one paid sick day a year.”

Report author and CUNY Murphy Institute Professor Stephanie Luce says that “It continues to shock me that even in a female dominated industry, women are earning less than men. Most of the people working in retail are earning poverty wages, so clearly something needs to be done to raise wages for all workers but especially for those most impacted.<”

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Women in Retail Fact Sheet

Retail is one of the fastest growing sectors in the United States and a core part of the New York City economy. A forthcoming study conducted by the City University of New York’s Murphy Institute and the Retail Action Project sought to track the wages and working conditions of frontline non-managerial workers in the booming retail industry, particularly among large employers and chain stores. The following data is the result of surveys of 435 retail workers ranging from high-end 5th Avenue luxury stores to discount off-brand chains in the Bronx. While this study was conducted in the retail epicenter of the country, its findings are representative of working conditions for frontline retail workers across the US, as the overwhelming majority of stores surveyed were national chains. What emerges is clear: a significant gender gap in wages in an industry that employs millions of women in America, where women are less likely to receive benefits or promotions. Furthermore, as retail businesses around the country institute around-the-clock holiday sale hours, it is women who are working extra, for less pay and benefits than their male counterparts.

Looking at only those workers who receive an hourly wage, we see average and median hourly wages are significantly higher for men than women, in particular 53% of Black women and 77% of Latina women who earn less than $10 per hour.

Male respondents are more likely than female respondents to receive health benefits and paid time off, but they are about equally likely to receive paid sick days.

Men are more likely to have received a raise and a promotion than women.


For Immediate Release
Contact: Yana Walton
Phone: 646-490-5925
Cell Phone: 646-453-9816
Email: yana@retailactionproject.org

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