Equal Pay Day: Women’s occupations offer fewer benefits—not just lower pay

Today we’re sending out an advisory to media about a new article from Gender & Society. Press release below: 
Gender & Society


CONTACT: Barbara J. Risman

News for Equal Pay Day: Women’s occupations offer fewer benefits—not just lower pay

Today is Equal Pay Day in the United States. This is the day we begin to observe that (all) women, on average, must work three months into the new year to earn the same thing that (all) men earn in the prior year, because in 2019 they earned 82 cents for every dollar men made. For (all) moms, Equal Pay Day is June 4 (70 cents). For African American women, Equal Pay Day is August 13 (62 cents); and for Latinx women, the date is October 29 (54 cents). New research shows that it is actually worse than this, because it isn’t just pay that women are shorted. They are shorted decent benefits.

Chicago, IL, March 31, 2020: A study released today by Gender & Society, a top-ranked social science journal, establishes that workers in women-dominated jobs get fewer benefits, including employer-provided health insurance coverage and retirement plans. The recognition of Equal Pay Day means that many understand the well-established fact that workers in women-dominated jobs get paid less than those in men-dominated jobs. This new study shows that the disadvantages are even greater than previously thought.  

The data. The study, conducted by Leslie Hodges at the University of Wisconsin, relied on three major datasets: the Medical Expenditures Panel Survey, the American Community Survey, and the Occupational Information Network. Focal information came from the household component of the Medical Expenditures Panel Survey, which includes nationally representative data from 2007-2013 about employer-provided health insurance coverage, sick leave and retirement plans. Hodges’ analysis included 34,698 people who worked full time in year-round jobs.   

No, women don’t get better benefits to compensate for lower pay. Hodges found that women-dominated jobs not only pay less, they provide fewer benefits such as health insurance coverage and retirement plans. Even though the Equal Pay Act of 1963 turns 57 this year, the research replicated the well-known finding that the more women there are in an occupation, the lower the wages. One classical economic claim to justify wage inequality has been that women choose these jobs, because the benefits are better and compensate for the lower pay. Yet this new study shows that simply is not the case.  

The research has vital implications for social policy. Women are half our labor force; they are indispensable family breadwinners, yet women and their families are disadvantaged both by a gender gap in wages as well as benefits. “Around the world, and in the U.S., during this pandemic and incipient recession, we are feeling the acute pain where safety nets and resources are limited. Today’s study reminds us that those limitations on security are not gender blind. We must do better,” observes Gender & Society editor Barbara Risman.  


The article, “Do Female Occupations Pay Less But Offer More Benefits?” by Leslie Hodges is published in  Gender & Society. The article is available for a limited time at (link). For more information, contact June Macon, attn: JM, at gendsoc@uic.edu.  

Hodges, Leslie.  2020. “Do Female Occupations Pay Less But Offer More Benefits?” Gender & Society.  Forthcoming. Available for review now at https://gendersociety.files.wordpress.com/2020/03/gs913527_rev1.pdf


AUTHOR CONTACT/BIO: Leslie Hodges is a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin – Madison who studies how families make ends meet. She specializes in the use of survey and administrative data to examine patterns in employment, health, and wellbeing for different population groups and to inform evidence-based policy making on public programs including child support, unemployment insurance, and SNAP. You can contact her at lbhodges@wisc.edu. Twitter: @lb_hodges.

ABOUT: Gender & Society is a peer-reviewed journal, focused on the study of gender. It is the official journal of Sociologists for Women in Society and was founded in 1987 as an outlet for feminist social science. Currently, it is a top-ranked journal in both sociology and women’s studies. Gender & Society, a journal of Sage Publications, publishes less than seven percent of all papers submitted to it. For more information, contact Gender & Society Editor Barbara J. Risman, Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, brisman@uic.edu. Twitter: @Gend_Soc, @bjrisman.

Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS), founded in 1969, is a nonprofit, scientific and educational organization with more than 1,000 members in the United States and overseas. For more information, contact Dr. Barrett Katuna, SWS Executive Officer, at swseo.barretkatuna@outlook.com. Twitter: @socwomen.

Do Female Occupations Pay Less But Offer More Benefits?

By Leslie Hodges

Workers in predominantly female occupations have, on average, lower wages compared to
workers in predominantly male occupations. Compensating differentials theory suggests
that these wage differences occur because women select into occupations with lower pay but more fringe benefits. Alternatively, devaluation theory suggests that these wage differ-
ences occur because work performed by women is not valued as highly as work performed by men.

One theory assumes that workers choose between wages and benefits. The other
assumes that workers face constraints that restrict their wages and benefits. To examine
whether female occupations pay less but offer more benefits, I used individual-level data
from the Medical Expenditures Panel Survey and occupation-level data from the American Community Survey and from the Occupational Information Network.

Contrary to compensating differentials theory, results from multivariate regression analysis provide little evidence that benefits explain wage differences between male and female occupations.

Workers in predominantly female occupations have, on average, lower wages compared to
workers in predominantly male occupations. Compensating differentials theory suggests
that these wage differences occur because women select into occupations with lower pay but more fringe benefits. Alternatively, devaluation theory suggests that these wage differences occur because work performed by women is not valued as highly as work performed by men. Download the PDF to see the full study.

Policing the Gender and Sexuality of LGBTQ Youth Experiencing Homelessness

Image from Mother Jones

“I would walk from maybe 12 at night to two in the morning and just walk around,” stated Jenelle, a 21-year-old heterosexual Hispanic transgender woman, “And ’cause there was a known transgender prostitute that was known by everybody and was arrested multiple times, [police] assumed that I was a prostitute too.”

I met Jenelle while I was conducting 18 months of fieldwork on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth homelessness in central Texas. Like 36 of the 40 youth I interviewed while conducting this study, Jenelle often had encounters with police while living on the streets. These encounters include the experience of police bias, which transgender activists and scholars have called “walking while trans” – when police officers presumed trans youth were prostitutes or otherwise troublesome. Police often presume transgender and gender-expansive Black and Brown youth are hyper-sexual and presume they engage in prostitution, which is both illegal in most of the United States and viewed as disruptive by police. Such biased stereotypes lead police to use their discretion to stop, look for warrants, potentially ticket and sometimes arrest transgender and gender-expansive Black and Brown youth merely for being on the streets.

Punishment and discrimination continued post-arrest. A 19-year-old White Hispanic lesbian, Alaina, said that police treated her “like a man.” She explained, “[Police] say the same thing, ‘Want to dress like a man? Going to beat you like a man.’” Alaina stated that police placed her “in the men’s cell.” She detailed, “He knew I was a girl. But he put me in there for about two hours. I said, ‘You better move me to that girl cell. I’m a girl.’ And then he was like, ‘You want to be like a man, then I’ll put you in a man’s cell.’”  Such policing practices criminalize poor LGBTQ youth of color and increase their incarceration rates, post-arrest punishment, and their subordination.

The Findings

In my Gender & Society article, I document the lives of LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness and their accounts of police bias and maltreatment during incarceration. The United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world, and that includes extreme rates of imprisonment for poor Black and Brown people. Legal scholar Michelle Alexander calls this era “the new Jim Crow,” drawing attention to how current incarceration practices perpetuate racial inequality through the continued discrimination and subjugation of poor Black and Brown people.

Although cross-dressing is no longer illegal, policing practices still regulate LGBTQ youth’s gender expressions. Police often see expansive expressions of gender as signs of deviance and criminality. Police also target and arrest some poor Black and Brown youth who identify as LGBTQ, even when cities have nondiscrimination policies based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Youth of color in this study explicitly understood their negative interactions with police because of “their bias toward” LGBTQ people. Youth told stories about police knowingly placing them in the wrong gender-segregated jail cells and prisons as another way to punish them and control their identity. Such practices further punish and criminalize poor Black and Brown LGBTQ youth.

Police also regulate LGBTQ youth’s sex lives. Some of the gender-expansive and transgender youth I talked to told me that some authorities at jails and prisons put them in solitary confinement because they believed that non-heterosexual people would have sex with each other, and so justified using solitary confinement to supposedly prevent sex in prisons. Solitary further punishes and marginalizes poor Black and Brown LGBTQ youth. These policing and incarceration practices that the youth I talked to experienced furthered racial inequality, punished poverty, and also regulated their gender and sexuality.

The Takeaways

Policing practices in the past—when crossdressing, homosexuality, and sodomy were illegal—acted as de jure discrimination against LGBTQ people. Now, as LGBTQ rights have progressed, and being LGBTQ is no longer illegal, policing practices operate as de facto discrimination. Despite the decrease of some kinds of discrimination against LGBTQ people, the policing practices I document still target Black and Brown LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness as if they were criminals. De facto discrimination, including contemporary biased policing, may be harder to challenge. Policing is not just a primary way in which the state deals with poverty and oppresses poor Black and Brown people. Police also oppress poor LGBTQ people of color who challenge the gender binary and heteronormativity.


Brandon Andrew Robinson is an Assistant Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of California, Riverside. They co-authored Race & Sexuality (Polity Press), and they are the author of the forthcoming book Coming Out to the Streets: The Lives of LGBTQ Youth Experiencing Homelessness (University of California Press). Follow them on Twitter @DrKittyGirl.

Moving Forward

Photo of Chicago by Managing Editor Mary Ann Vega, UIC

With this issue, our editorial team publishes the first articles that we have accepted during our term. The article by Casey Clevenger titled “Constructing Spiritual Motherhood in the Democratic Republic on Congo” and the article by Isabel Pike on “A Discursive Spectrum: The Narrative of Kenya’s ‘Neglected’ Boy Child” were processed by the previous Editor, Jo Reger, and her team, and we thank them. The rest of the articles in this issue, and from here forward, have been accepted by my team.

I want to thank my Deputy Editors who make this possible: Irma Mooi-Reci, Mignon Moore, Kristen Myers, Smitha Radhakrishnan, Sheryl Skaggs, and Ann Travers. We bid farewell to Mignon Moore as she becomes President of Sociologists for Women in Society, because the bylaws do not allow an elected officer to serve in an editorial capacity. We will miss her greatly but are pleased she takes the leadership of the organization that publishes us. I also welcome 22 new board members. In our attempt to become more internationally representative, I’m pleased to note that we now have two Deputy Editors (Irma Mooi-Reci and Ann Travers) from beyond the United States and eight new board members from across the globe. Whenever possible, I try to have at least one reviewer from the country on which the research is based and/or where the author resides.

I very much hope that our readers think critically about the research published in Gender & Society. Because scientific progress is often furthered by dialogue, I invite Letters to the Editor and substantive responses to the articles that we publish. All Letters to the Editor and responses will go out for review. Those that are accepted will be published in future issues.

In addition, in analyzing our annual report, it has come to my attention that quantitative analyses are underrepresented in these pages. I want to encourage those scholars who use quantitative methods and mixed methodology to submit manuscripts. Please know we encourage you to do so.

Barbara J. Risman is College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Distinguished Professor of Sociology at University of Illinois at Chicago. She is the author of Where the Millennials Will Take Us: A New Generation Wrestles with the Gender Structure (Oxford University Press 2018) and co-editor of The Handbook of the Sociology of Gender (Springer 2018). She writes about gender structure theory, and her current research is on the development of nonbinary identities. You can find her on Twitter, here.

Key Reasons to Review in Academia

In most universities today, faculty, staff, and graduate students are being asked to do more with less. Many report being stretched too thin and becoming burned out. To cope, we are learning to guard our “free” time jealously, and we are honing the much-needed skill of saying no to more service. The service that we do choose is either unavoidable or personally meaningful to us. This strategy for self-preservation and mental health is important.

One service demand that is on the rise is conducting peer-reviews of manuscripts for journals. According to John Robert Warren (2019), there has been an explosion of publication demands in sociology in the last 30 plus years. In 1986, the Social Sciences Citation Index’s Journal Citation Reports listed 64 journals about sociology, compared to 143 in 2016. This proliferation of journals is related to increased requirements on graduate students and faculty to publish, and it inevitably creates a greater demand for peer-reviewers.

In this context in which so many people feel over-extended and under-appreciated, why take on the purely elective, time-consuming, and largely invisible work of conducting peer reviews?

We believe that there are several key reasons why you should say yes to reviewing, or at least put reviewing manuscripts closer to the top of your elective service list, especially for a journal like Gender & Society. 

  • Practice feminist mentoring. By reading, constructively critiquing, and responding to authors, you help them develop their writing and analytical skills. If you were fortunate enough to be well-mentored yourself, you can pass on what you were taught, paying it forward, contributing to a vibrant intellectual community of scholars. If you were not as lucky and received less than constructive feedback somewhere along your intellectual journey, peer-reviews give you an opportunity to interrupt and correct assumptions that feedback must be harsh and demeaning in order to be critical.
  • Grow your own research and writing skills. By reading and responding to other people’s work, you expand your skillset. You might get excited about a new concept, approach to data collection, or data set. Reviewing helps you stay on top of what’s happening in the field, and what you read might help fertilize your own projects.
  • Build the discipline. While this is obvious, it behooves us to point it out because it is so important: Serving as a peer-reviewer shapes the state of knowledge in sociology. As a traditional gate-keeper, you help ensure that published work is of high quality. As a feminist gatekeeper, you can help transform the discipline in key ways. The work of individual peer-reviewers may be invisible, but their collective work builds the discipline.
  • Expand your network. Although authors won’t usually know who you are when you review their work, editors and deputy editors will. Your thoughtful and constructive reviews increase your cultural capital within this network, and they will seek you out as experts in the future. While this may mean more service—not the goal—it might also mean new scholarly opportunities. At the very least, you help make a name for yourself in the field of sociology.
  • Enhance your cv. Although there may be no fame and glory in “blind” peer-reviews, this work does enhance your cv. You should list the journals where you’ve reviewed articles and save thank you emails and certificates from grateful journal editors. You may be able to include those in tenure and promotion packets and annual merit reviews.

We are writing this blog to gently remind our community of scholars of the importance and the value of peer-reviewing. The work of peer-reviewing is precious, and peer-reviewers who engage in feminist mentoring are essential to the evolution of a vibrant and critical body of work within disciplines. When fewer people accept invitations to review, those few people are not doing more than their fair share and they inadvertently get to have a greater voice in shaping the discipline. A wide range of peer reviewers ensures intellectual diversity and inclusion of multiple perspectives in the field – an exercise that forms the core of feminist knowledge production. We particularly appeal to those advancing in the field to engage in peer review because, as members of the academic community, we regularly call upon our colleagues in the field to review and write for us (sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly). Peer review is one vital way of giving back to the field for all the times someone has contributed to our journeys and helped us move along. We strive to recast reviewing articles as a form of service that is empowering rather than demeaning. Perhaps it can be a way to intellectually recharge in an otherwise draining work world. Let’s hope so. One thing is certain: We need you.

Kristen Myers is Professor and Chair of Sociology at East Carolina University. She has published work on gender in STEM fields, gender in childhood, masculinity and fatherhood, and racetalk.  She is a Deputy Editor of Gender & Society.

Pallavi Banerjee is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Calgary, Canada. She has published work on immigrant families, gender, motherhood, tech-work and intersectionality. She is an Editorial Board member for Gender & Society.


Warren, John Robert. 2019. “How Much Do You Have to Publish to Get a Job in a Top Sociology Department? Or to Get Tenure? Trends over a Generation.” Sociological Science 6: 172-196.

Signaling Parenthood: Work and Parenting in the Low-Wage Service Sector

A person standing in front of a store filled with lots of food

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Image Source: Kaleb Snay

Should you talk about your kids at work?

This question is the subject of numerous blog posts and articles, often intended for women in white-collar jobs. And there is good reason for women to be wary of the consequences associated with motherhood: women experience a wage penalty at work when they become mothers.

According to Budig and England, this motherhood wage penalty is about 7% per child. Recent research suggests that wage penalties may be greater for women at the bottom of the income distribution. As Budig notes, this means that “women who least can afford it, pay the largest proportionate penalty for motherhood.”

Fathers not only escape this penalty, but may experience a fatherhood premium. According to one estimate, fatherhood increases men’s earnings by more than 6%. Many researchers argue that this is because employers see fatherhood as a sign of increased loyalty, work commitment, or stability.

Much of the existing research on wage penalties and premiums assumes that employers are aware of a worker’s parental status. But given the different consequences that parenthood has on outcomes such as pay and promotions, it is possible that men and women may announce or hide  their whether or not they are parentsdifferently. Yet we know little about whether mothers and fathers let their bosses know their children even exist.  

The Research

In a forthcoming article in Gender & Society, I draw on interviews with 36 mothers and fathers working in the retail and food service industries to examine how they signal their parental status at work. While parents in all sectors of the economy struggle to meet the competing demands of work and parenthood, parents in the low-wage service sector do so with very little support. These workers often lack resources to help with childcare and rarely have access to family protections through work. At the same time, their often-unpredictable schedules can make it difficult for these workers to plan for other aspects of their lives, including childcare.

Fathers: “My kids come first”

Fathers in this sample often discussed their children with their employers and characterized their managers as “understanding” of their parenting obligations. Fathers explained that they were prepared to “drop everything” if they were needed at home, reiterating the idea that their “kids come first.” Moreover, fathers faced few repercussions from their managers for taking this stance. When asked what he does when he needs to miss work, Bill – a multiracial father of two – explained that his manager is understanding, but only when it comes to his children:

“I have to call my manager. Usually he’ll give me a break if it involves my kids. There is no other excuse; it’s only for my kids then he’s like, ‘Go ahead. Take time off.’ But I don’t have any other excuse. It’s only that one.”

Previous research finds that men who ask for work flexibility to care for their children are evaluated more positively than men who ask for flexibility for other reasons. While caregiving is often seen as an obligation of good mothers, it is seen as more optional for fathers. Men who do “step in to help” with childcare may therefore  be seen as especially praiseworthy, and receive added rewards for their efforts.

Mothers: “I have a kid. I have to show them a work ethic”

Mothers were less likely to discuss their children at work and used a variety of strategies to minimize the extent to which their managers were aware of their family obligations. These included claiming open availability, using breaks strategically, and concealing their childcare obligations altogether.

Many women used their work breaks to take care of their children. By doing so, they avoided asking their managers permission for time off and instead sacrificed their breaks to take care of obligations at home. Others refrained from using their children as a reason to miss work, choosing to call in sick when they actually needed to stay home with their children.

In some cases, women purposefully concealed the fact that they had children altogether. This was especially true of Black mothers, who were concerned with countering assumptions that they may be unreliable workers. Melody, a Black mother of two young children, works at a big box store and a local music venue. When asked whether she discusses her children when she needs to change her work schedule, Melody explained that she has not told her primary employer that she has children:

“I try not to. [The music venue] knows that I have a child. [The big box store] doesn’t, actually. Not yet. I try not to use him as an excuse just ‘cause I don’t want it to be one of those things where it’s like, “Well, she has a kid, so maybe this isn’t a job for her.”

Melody implies that she may be penalized if she discloses to her employer that she is a mother. She chooses, for the time-being, to present herself as an unencumbered worker.

The Takeaway

I find that mothers are aware of the penalties associated with motherhood and try to downplay their parental status at work. Yet the strategies they used to conceal their motherhood often require mothers to sacrifice care for themselves. While mothers emphasized their commitment to work to their employers, they were still working to be good mothers behind the scenes.

These interviews also provide some evidence that expectations for fathers are moving in a more equitable direction. Fathers were surprisingly open to discussing their childcare obligations with their managers. This supports the idea that “good” fathers are now expected to do more than simply provide for their children. However, discussing children may also be an astute strategy for fathers. By emphasizing their parenthood, fathers may gain access to positive assumptions that employers make of fathers, thereby helping to reproduce gender inequality in the workplace.

Sigrid Willa Luhr is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research focuses on the reproduction of inequality within the workplace and family. Her current projects examine workplace gender inequality across various sectors of the economy, from the low-wage service sector to the high-wage tech industry. You can find her research in the Journal of Family Studies, Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Social Service Review, and forthcoming in Social Problems and Gender & Society. She is also on twitter @sigridluhr.


I am honored and thrilled to be stepping into the role of the Editor of Gender & Society. This position brings me full circle in my career, as my very first published article was the first article in the first issue of Gender & Society (Risman 1987). My career has spanned the growth and development of this feminist journal, and I feel very lucky to be at the helm for the next four years. I want to thank Jo Reger and her Deputy Editors for their leadership and efforts and for handing over a journal in such good shape.

The editorship of this journal is truly a team effort. And what a team I have! The Deputy Editors who began this journey with me include Irma Mooi-Reci, Mignon Moore, Kristen Myers, Smitha Radhakrishnan, Sheryl Skaggs, and Ann Travers. We have already lost Mignon Moore as she has recently been elected President of Sociologists for Women in Society. We will miss her tremendously, but we are thrilled that she will be at the helm of SWS. We are lucky enough to have a fabulous team of Managing Editors—Seth Behrends, June Macon, and Mary Ann Vega—all graduate students at University of Illinois at Chicago. They are the people whom most of those who submit manuscripts will “meet” as the face of the journal.

Our team will continue to do what the past editorial teams have done: publish the best of feminist scholarship with an intersectional lens. We continue to encourage scholars to submit research that pushes forward gender theory. We also are interested in theoretical articles about gender. We also encourage research that provides important empirical insights into gender stratification. My goal is to continue the efficient practices of those who came before us, ensuring quality feedback with quick turnaround times. I hope to make most decisions after the first revision, sparing authors the pain of multiple revisions with no commitment to publish. We are very interested in publishing research encompassing a variety of methodologies, and we are especially interested in articles that are multi-methodological. With the increasing use of an online appendix, we can publish quantitative articles with more empirical data without concern about page limits.

Our cover picture is artwork by Managing Editor Mary Ann Vega. They took the picture from the rooftop deck of the Behavioral Science Building at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), where we work. The photo is a reminder that intellectual work includes the labor of real people in a particular geographic place. This is the view from our workplace when we work late at night to take the intellectual labor of our authors and turn it into a finished product, volume 34 of Gender & Society. I appreciate Mary Ann volunteering their artistic talents to our collective project.

Photo of Chicago by Managing Editor Mary Ann Vega, UIC

We continue to publish blogs written by our authors, and hope to soon begin a more assertive program to bring the important research that we publish into public conversation. Watch for our articles showing up in the news.

Again, it is an honor and a great responsibility to be at the helm of a journal that has feminist goals and uses serious social science research to forward them. Thank you all for your continued support of our journey.

Barbara J. Risman is College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Distinguished Professor of Sociology at University of Illinois at Chicago. She is the author of Where the Millennials Will Take Us: A New Generation Wrestles with the Gender Structure (Oxford University Press 2018) and co-editor of The Handbook of the Sociology of Gender (Springer 2018). She writes about gender structure theory, and her current research is on the development of nonbinary identities. You can find her on Twitter, here.


Risman, Barbara J. 1987. Intimate relationships from a microstructural perspective: Men who mother. Gender & Society 1 (1): 6-32.