iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Cristen Conger

GET UPDATES FROM Cristen Conger

A Bartender's Guide to the Gender Wage Gap

Posted: 07/19/10 12:46 PM ET

Cruising through Huffington Post's 8 Jobs In Which Women Make More Than Men left me more crestfallen than keyed up for women's advancement in the workplace. The slideshow, based on the June 2010 women's earnings report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is meant to offer a glass-half-full perspective on the stagnant gender wage gap. Instead, it's a sad roundup of female-dominated industry sectors doling out paltry pay in comparison to the median men's earnings.

For starters, only three of the jobs -- clerks, dieticians/nutritionists and science technicians -- pay above women's median weekly income of $657, which is 20 percent less than what the middle-earning man takes home. And although female bakers, kindergarten teachers, beauticians and the rest typically make more than their male counterparts, their income boost is negligible compared to that overall wage gap. In fact, the pink-collar wage gap is less than 5 percent for all of these sectors, except one: dining room and cafeteria attendants/bartender helpers.

So watch out busboys. Women co-workers are making as much as 11 percent more, or $40 extra per week. Granted, that additional cash means a lot when you're raking in barely half the median pay. Yet even in the case of bartender helpers, men win out in the end.

Breaking down gender in the bartending industry might seem irrelevant since we generally discuss workplace equality in terms of the boardroom rather than the barroom, but take a gander this little nugget from researchers Barbara Reskin and Patricia Roos:

"The most dramatic effect of Title VII on women's access to male jobs occurred in bartending."

Yeah, that's Title VII, as in the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. At that point, 26 states legally banned women from bartending on the basis that the fairer sex a) couldn't manage the physical and psychological demands of getting male patrons sauced and b) might drive said patrons into uncontrollable sexual frenzies and sully the boys' club atmosphere.

With that legislation, the sexist statues started disappearing from state law. And it still wasn't until 1971 that California finally struck down its statue prohibiting females from pouring drinks since such behavior might incite "improprieties and immoral acts."

Then, in the late '70s hotel chains noticed revenues perked up with women behind the bar, and more establishments began seeking out female barkeeps. Today, there's a better chance that a woman will pour your whiskey on the rocks since they now comprise a slight majority of bartenders. Nevertheless, the old gender wage gap still creeps into play because, according to that June earnings report, women bartenders clear about 15 percent less than men. Therefore, while female bar backs might have the income edge at first, it disappears beyond the entry level.

Bartending might strike some as a trivial example compared to the C-level corporate slots women continue to fight for, but since the service industry sector employs more than 7 million American women, the wage disparity arguably has a more potent ripple effect in everyday society. And clearly, if employment sectors on the shallower end of the income pool aren't fully supporting women, we still have plenty of room left for gender progress in the workplace from top to bottom.

To learn more about how women elbowed their way behind the bar, listen to "A Sobering History of Women and Bartending" from Stuff Mom Never Told You.