Alongside the everyday low prices, Walmart shoppers in Landover Hills, Maryland, might encounter Gail Todd. A mother of three who works there as a sales associate, Gail would like to work full time but has recently seen her schedule cut to as few as 12 hours a week. She has no idea how much she’ll end up making this year; even when she was working closer to full time, she expected to bring home just $17,000. Currently she and her family depend on D.C.’s public health care system, food stamps and low-income housing to stay afloat.
Gail’s dilemma is the norm among retail workers. Retail salesperson is the most common job in the country, and the industry’s low pay and erratic scheduling leaves employees — especially the 7.2 million women who disproportionately fill these low-wage jobs — in poverty. The national discussion on the gender pay gap has focused on high-level executives such as Jill Abramson, but inequality in pay is not limited to America’s C-suites. In fact, the retail industry has a big gender pay gap. The typical retail salesman brings home $14.62 an hour, while the typical retail saleswoman earns just $10.58 an hour. Overall in sales and related occupations, the pay gap is costingwomen $40.8 billion in wages a year.