For female same-sex couples, gender wage gap a double whammy

Studies show the gender wage gap is different in the LGBT community

A COUPLE ENJOYS last year’s Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem.  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
A COUPLE ENJOYS last year’s Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Each year, depressing statistics on the gender wage gap are published and dutifully reported, alongside the usual caveats.
In 2013, for example, the average Israeli woman earned 31.9% less than what the average Israeli man earned, but when compared on an hourly basis, the gap shrinks to a still-alarming (but much smaller) 14.4%.
Many theories that deal with wage inequality explain or aim to justify it by pointing to heterosexual households: the man tends to work longer hours to bring home the schnitzel, while the woman takes greater responsibility for children and household tasks.
But for same-sex female couples, the gap can hit doubly hard.
“If we look at the statistics that show that women earn less for the same work , then putting two together puts us at a disadvantage,” said Anat Nir, an executive committee member of the Aguda, the Israeli National LGBT Task Force.
In a forthcoming book on LGBT rights in Israel entitles “LGBTQ Rights in Israel: Gender Identity, Sexual Orientation and the Law,” lawyer Ira Hadar devoted a chapter to the economic difficulties same-sex couples in Israel face. Among them: government benefits and incentives that are written for married couples, challenges in workplace discrimination, legal loopholes in pension plans.
Einav H. Morgenstern, who edited the book along with Prof. Alon Harel and Yaniv Lushinsky, notes that some challenges apply to all same-sex couples.
“Often coming out of the closet strain the very family ties that people depend on,” she said, noting the particular dependence that Israelis have on parental support in raising families and dealing with the high cost of living.
But when it comes down to it, female same-sex couples may be hardest hit by a double dose of women’s issues.
(This year’s theme for Tel Aviv Pride week, which is currently under way, is “women in the community.”) “I think what’s really interesting is that it emphasizes trends that already exist among heterosexual women,” said Morgenstern.
But economic data on Israel’s LGBT community is difficult to find. The Central Bureau of Statistics does not collect LGBT-specific data, Morgenstern said, though a meeting to address the issue is scheduled for Tuesday of this week.
International data, however, seem to indicate that the gender gap applies differently in the LGBT community.
According to 2014 University of Washington meta-analysis of 29 surveys, lesbians earned 9% more than heterosexual women, while gay men earned 11% less than straight men.
The study suggested that the difference was, in part, due to “work intensity,” though others have suggested it was a matter of necessity for women who do not partner with men to seek better pay.
Yet the individual differences in income may still leave couples worse off. For all-female couples, even earning 11% more on average than straight women would only fill less than two-thirds of the gender wage gap when compared to a heterosexual couple.
Among gay men, Morgenstern noted, there’s a stereotype of the well-off “DINK,” couples that have “dual income, no kids.” For lesbian and bisexual women, who can more easily have children than gay men, the model may not apply. A 2004 survey found that 25% of lesbian couples had children, as compared to just 7% of gay male couples, though those figures are likely to have changed given the dramatic advance of LGBT rights and acceptance of non-traditional families.
Even as lesbian and bisexual women struggle economically, however, there are other, more overlooked groups that often have it worse.
“The area that the LGBT community needs to focus on the most is the transgender community,” said Morgenstern.
Transgender people, she said, have the most difficulty finding work, the most trouble with discrimination, and the most difficulties with sexual harassment.