An industry that’s one of the largest employers of women and one of the fastest job creators in the country also has a huge pay gap. The average female retail salesperson makes $10.58 per hour, while her average male colleague makes $14.62, according to a new study from Demos, a think tank focused on income inequality. The study found that the pay gap in the retail sector -- a broad category that includes cashiers, salespeople, people stocking shelves and others -- is costing women who work in the industry about $40.8 billion per year.
Put another way: Women in sales and related jobs have work 103 extra days every year just to earn the same amount of money as their male colleagues bring in. That's nearly double the average gap for all jobs, which comes out to about 59 more days per year that women need to work to earn the same as men.
“It’s really striking, because it’s the most common occupation in the country right now,” Amy Traub, a senior policy analyst at Demos and the author of the study, said of retail work. “It’s not a job that’s going away.”
While much of the public discussion about pay inequity and the role of women in the workplace has focused on how best to get professional women into visible leadership positions, the average woman is more likely to be toiling away in one of the low-paying roles highlighted by the study than worrying about how she'll move into the C-suite, Traub noted. Women held many of the middle-class government jobs that disappeared during the recession and recovery. As these positions disappeared, more jobs sprung up in low-wage sectors like retail and fast food.