Sunday marks “Women’s Equality Day” – commemorating the date in 1920 when women in the United States won the right to vote.
In advance of the occasion, state officials released a preliminary report this week detailing some of the significant social and economic advances women in North Carolina have made in recent decades. But the report, The Status of Women in North Carolina, also details the disparities that persist especially in the area of economic security.
Among the key findings:
- Nearly six in ten women are now in the workforce (U.S. Department of Commerce 2012a), compared to 34 percent of women in 1950 and 43 percent of women in 1970(Fullerton 1999). Women’s labor force participation in North Carolina reflects this trend; as of 2010, 59 percent of women were active in the workforce.
- In North Carolina, as in the United States as a whole, women have higher levels of education than men. Women in the state are more likely than men to hold an associate’s degree or have some college education (33 percent of women compared to 28 percent of men) or to have a bachelor’s degree or higher (27 percent of women compared to 26 percent of men). A smaller proportion of women than men have not graduated from high school (13 percent of women compared to 17 percent of men).iii
- Despite women’s higher educational attainment, women’s wages in North Carolina lag behind men’s. In 2010, the median annual earnings for women who work full-time, year-round in North Carolina were $7,000 (or $135 per week) less than the median annual earnings of comparable men; women’s earnings were $33,000, compared to $40,000 for men.
- In North Carolina, as in the United States as a whole, the gender wage gap is even larger when only men and women at the same educational level are compared. Women who have at least a college degree and work full-time, year-round earn more than $20,000 less per year than comparable men (a gender wage gap of 29 percent); for women with some college education or an associate’s degree, the loss of earnings for women is about $10,000 per year (a gender wage gap of 24 percent).
- In North Carolina, poverty status varies considerably by race and ethnicity. Among women in the state, Hispanic women are the most likely to be poor or near poor (64 percent), followed by American Indian (54 percent) and black (52 percent) women. Asian American and white women are the least likely to be poor or near poor (35 percent and 30 percent, respectively).
The full 2012 Status of Women in North Carolina report is slated to be released in October. To read an advance fact sheet on the findings prepared by the independent Institute for Women’s Policy Research on behalf of the N.C. Council for Women  , click here .