Study Shows Women In Retail Lost Jobs, While Men Gained Higher Paying Jobs According to a study, last year, men gained higher-paying jobs in retail while women lost them. Heidi Hartmann of the Institute for Women's Policy Research spoke with NPR's Lauren Frayer to explain.
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Analysis Shows Women Lost Jobs In Retail Last Year, Though Men Gained

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Analysis Shows Women Lost Jobs In Retail Last Year, Though Men Gained

Analysis Shows Women Lost Jobs In Retail Last Year, Though Men Gained

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LAUREN FRAYER, HOST:

By now, you'd better have your holiday shopping done. Maybe you did more of it online this year. Easy for you but bad for your local mall - brick-and-mortar stores are losing jobs. And it turns out some workers are hit harder than others. A new analysis shows that last year women in retail lost jobs while men actually gained them. Heidi Hartmann is an author on the study. She's with the Institute for Women's Policy Research. And she joins us in studio to explain. Hi, Heidi. Thank you for coming in.

HEIDI HARTMANN: Oh, It's a pleasure to be with you.

FRAYER: So what exactly did your analysis find?

HARTMANN: Well, we found that women lost hundreds of thousands of jobs in retail over the last year, and men gained more than 100,000 jobs. And we were quite surprised because we think of retail trade as a women's industry.

FRAYER: Right.

HARTMANN: And the biggest losses for women were in general merchandise stores. And the biggest gains for men were in the same kind of stores. And that's the hugest part of retail.

FRAYER: So this was not a positive holiday gift to women?

HARTMANN: (Laughter) No. I'd characterize it as women getting coal in their stocking this Christmas season.

FRAYER: So what exactly do you think is behind this trend?

HARTMANN: Well, I think it is the consumer durables. We know that just like in other industries...

FRAYER: Durables are - what? - washing machines, cars, big-ticket items.

HARTMANN: ...Furniture - things that last a long time as compared to clothing, cosmetics, things like that.

FRAYER: And this year we saw a rise in sales of these items?

HARTMANN: We did. We saw hiring anyway. And that's interesting. I think it's a longtime recovery from that very deep and long recession we had in 2007 and 2009. They're finally catching up.

FRAYER: People finally decided it was time to invest in a new washing machine after holding off for a couple of years.

HARTMANN: Yeah.

FRAYER: So we're talking about men selling more of these big appliances, women selling clothes and cosmetics. What's the wage disparity there? I imagine that the commission is higher if you sell a car than if you sell a T-shirt.

HARTMANN: Well, definitely. Men make more in retail just the way they make more in almost every industry and every occupation. But, you know, women have tried for years to get these jobs. Sears actually won a case in the '70s saying that it wasn't enough to just show a statistical disparity, that there were no women in the jobs. That wasn't enough (laughter). And the judge ruled that the plaintiffs hadn't shown intention that Sears didn't...

FRAYER: So this was women suing because they were denied access to those high-commission sales jobs.

HARTMANN: Absolutely.

FRAYER: We've broken this down by gender. But are there also disparities when it comes to race or age in the retail industry?

HARTMANN: Well, there probably are. This data set doesn't have it. And we vowed that this is so interesting we're going to take a look in the spring when we can get a different data set that will have all of those demographic variables.

FRAYER: Let's talk again then. Yeah.

HARTMANN: I'd love to.

FRAYER: Heidi Hartmann - an economist and president of the Institute for Women's Policy Research here in Washington. Thanks for coming in.

HARTMANN: Thank you so much.

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