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How women are fighting back against the gender wage gap

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Posted at 3:31 PM, Mar 23, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. — In any business, there are barriers— some movable, some solid as a brick. Sometimes the trick is determining which is which.

Shirley Crawford lives in Richmond, Virginia, one of 22 cities where young women have eliminated – or even upended – the gender wage gap. But, like every city in America, there’s still a sizable wage gap for all women.

Another year brings another point on a 20-year trend: the gender wage gap is tightening for young adults but stagnant for all adults. One barrier bends. The other remains immovable.

The answers to why are anecdotal and often ambiguous. A Pew study found 80% of U.S. adults say women earn less because they’re treated differently by employers. Fifty percent said that’s a major reason. Then, there are the diverging paths of parenthood. Mothers, ages 25 to 44, are less likely to be in the labor force, or if they are, they work, on average, fewer hours. Fathers that age are more likely to have jobs and work longer than men without kids.

“Women are penalized for being women,” Crawford said.

Richmond is full of women-owned businesses and image-busting murals. It’s the only city in America to recognize International Women’s Day as a holiday.

Still, Ebony Campbell says the city still feels like a boy's club.

“It does. It really does, and we have to figure out how to not let that really bother us or affect us," she said.

Campbell just co-launched a women’s business networking group that meets monthly in Richmond. She’s an example of the many millennials working to uplift their peers.

“I'm not really trying to compete necessarily, but I'm going to always show up in the room and show you why I'm supposed to be here,” Campbell said.

“This whole equity that we’re experiencing with millennials in particular, this is very new,” Crawford said.

That’s why, according to Crawford, no one knows how immovable that final barrier will be. She believes the next generation will bring fundamental change, building on those who came before them.