AAUW’s Top Research Reports of 2018

December 20, 2018


Groundbreaking research is a well-established hallmark of AAUW’s work. Our reports — designed to reach opinion leaders, policy makers and the general public — allow us to be part of the national conversation on such topics as the pay gap and women’s economic security, sexual harassment and other biases against women in the workplace.

These are three of our most recent research reports and updates — and the key takeaways from each.

The Simple Truth

Outlook Online

Read more about what’s happening at AAUW

In October, AAUW released the latest edition of our hallmark report, The Simple Truth About the Gender Pay Gap, which found women are still paid only 80 cents on the dollar, on average, compared to men. Working women collectively lose out on more than $500 billion a year due to the pay gap, with the biggest collective gaps within occupation experienced by financial managers ($19.6 billion) and physicians and surgeons ($19.5 billion). The gaps are even larger for women of color, with black women receiving just 61 cents on the dollar and Latinas 53 cents on the dollar compared to white men. Some other findings from the report include:

  • When women enter a previously male-dominated profession, average wages for the occupation decrease, even for men in the field.
  • The pay gap hurts women in retirement: They receive less in their Social Security and pensions. White men over 65 have an average annual income of $44,200, while white women over 65 must get by on $23,100, black women on $21,900, and Latinas on $14,800.

Fortunately, there are some hopeful signs on the horizon. While we continue to push for uniform federal updates to our equal pay laws, some 40 states have considered pay equity bills in the past year alone. And more than 20 states and jurisdictions have enacted bans prohibiting employers from asking job candidates about their salary history — a practice that can perpetuate the gender pay gap. Corporate cultures are starting to change, too, as more companies conduct pay audits to discern salary inequities and abandon policies that penalized workers for discussing salary information.

Deeper In Debt

With college costs skyrocketing, student debt is a growing problem in the U.S. — and women are disproportionately impacted. Deeper in Debt, a research report first published in 2017 and updated this year, reveals that women hold almost two-thirds ($890 billion) of the country’s $1.4 trillion student debt. The student loan gender disparity has nearly doubled in the past four years, and women now graduate with an average of $2,700 more debt than men when earning a bachelor’s degree.

The impact of higher debt is compounded as women graduate to the gender pay gap: Even right out of college, women earn less than men — leaving them with less income to pay back student loans. On average, it takes women two years longer than men to repay their student loans, and many women struggle financially as they do so. Black and Hispanic women face particular challenges: they tend to pay off loans more slowly and experience more financial difficulties during repayment than both white women and white men. For all women, the burden of student debt makes it harder for women to buy a home, start a business or save for retirement.

The Deeper in Debt report outlines several solutions that could alleviate the problem. Among these recommendations, the report calls on Congress to protect and expand financial aid for low-income students and for state and federal lawmakers to increase funding for public colleges and universities. AAUW also suggests that the U.S. Department of Education make it easier for students to enroll in income-driven repayment options and that colleges and universities better address the needs of nontraditional students.

Broken Ladders

Though women account for the majority of employees in nonprofit organizations, philanthropic foundations and colleges and universities, they are woefully underrepresented in leadership positions in those fields. AAUW’s 2018 report, Broken Ladders, examines this issue and explores the obstacles that women face as they seek to advance in the nonprofit arena.

Women represent about 75 percent of the workforce in the nonprofit sector, but only about 56 percent of the chief executives of nonprofits with annual budgets under $1 million and just 22 percent of the chief executives at the 2,200 nonprofits in the United States with budgets of at least $50 million.

AAUW recommends a multi-pronged approach to reducing this inequity in the nonprofit arena in same way the organization does for its overall tactics to closing the gender gap in wages and leadership roles. It calls upon policymakers to improve data collection on women in leadership; pass paid leave laws that would help employees balance work and family as they advance into leadership roles; and strengthen and expand equal pay laws. AAUW also encourages employers to voluntarily provide better data on leadership by gender and race, to support mentorship and sponsorship programs for women, and to establish flexible workplaces with a full range of benefits that promote success and achievement.

By:   |   December 20, 2018