How America’s Biggest Retail Corporations Perpetuate Gender Inequities
America’s retailers depend on underpaid women while men hold the retail industry’s top jobs and make decisions about pay and benefits for millions of families across the country. From ringing up customers to stocking shelves, the 5.5 million women working in retail find themselves concentrated in higher risk customer-facing positions and receive lower pay, less predictable schedules, and limited leadership opportunities compared to their male counterparts.
In 2022, 7 out of 10 cashiers in the retail industry were women, the lowest paid job classification in the industry. In contrast, men comprise the majority of the industry’s first-line supervisors despite making up a minority of total retail workers.
Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics
Gender Pay Gaps
Women working in retail also face significant pay inequities, earning less than men in the same positions. The minority of cashiers that are men, for example, earn 12% more than cashiers who are women. These gender pay gaps are even larger for retail salespersons (33%) and first-line supervisors of retail sales workers (33%).
Source: US Census Bureau
Mothers in Retail
Women raising families while working in retail face even greater challenges. About half of retail workers receive health benefits from their employer, while only a quarter receive paid family leave, and just 6% receive child care subsidies. Because of the limited benefits and low wages endemic to retail work (the median annual earnings for a woman working as a cashier in 2018 was $21,644), many women must depend on government assistance to get by.
Walmart is the largest private sector employer in the world with over two million associates globally and nearly 1.6 million employees in the United States. In 2022, women comprised 53% of Walmart’s hourly U.S. workforce while top positions (managers, officers, and board of directors) continue to be dominated by men. In 2022, 36% of Walmart’s U.S. officers were women, 44% of U.S. managers were women while only 18% were Women of Color. Representation of women at the C-suite level (President, Executive Vice President, Senior Vice President, and Vice President) is by far the worst. Women comprise only 36% of Walmart’s officers while women of color makeup only 10%.
As the second largest private employer in the United States, Amazon has an immense impact on the warehouse and distribution side of the retail industry. In 2021, women made up 50% of Amazon’s Field & Customer Support employees but only 24% of Senior Leaders. This means that women at Amazon are over-represented in positions with lower pay, higher injury rates, and less predictable schedules and hours. But while Amazon’s warehouse operations depend on hundreds of thousands of women of color, there are only 66 Black women and 37 Hispanic women at the top of the company’s hierarchy, compared to 1,521 white men.
Given their sheer size, America’s biggest retail corporations have the ability to address gender inequities rampant in the industry. Policies proven to support women in the workforce include but are not limited to:
- Higher hourly wages for frontline positions;
- Wage transparency and corporate disclosure of median pay gaps;
- Paid parental leave;
- Sick leave that can be used to take care of family members;
- Accommodations for pregnant and nursing people,
- Schedule flexibility and advanced notification; and
- Dependent care FSAs so that retail workers can use pre-tax pay for childcare.
These simple policy changes could raise standards for millions of women working in retail stores and warehouses, allowing them to work and care for their families without having to make hard choices or worry about losing their jobs. Enhancing women’s economic stability would benefit employers, employees, and thousands of communities across the United States.