A new cohort of young women—members of the so-called Millennial generation—have reportedly nearly caught up with men in pay. According to the Pew Research Center (Pew), the Millennial generation is better educated than their mothers and grandmothers had been—or than their young male counterparts are now.
The survey findings are paired with a Pew Research analysis of census data that shows that today’s young women are the first in modern history to start their work lives at near parity with men. In 2012, among workers ages 25 to 34, women’s hourly earnings were 93 percent those of men. By comparison, among all working men and women ages 16 and older, women’s hourly wages were 84 percent those of men. And women in the younger age cohort were significantly more likely than their male counterparts to have completed a bachelor’s degree – 38 percent versus 31 percent in 2013.
Lorraine Howard, vice president of marketing with Diamond Lakes FCU in Hot Springs, Ark., isn’t surprised.
“Women, young women particularly, are holding the family wallet, paying the bills and contributing to the family bottom-line more and more,” Howard notes. “Working with single mothers through the local community college has shown me, first hand, the determination young women have to get an education and pave the way for a better life for their family.”
In 2012, the median hourly wage for women, full-time and part-time workers combined, was 84 percent as much as men ($14.90 vs. $17.79). In 1980, the gap had been much wider: the median hourly wage for women was 64 percent as much as men ($11.94 vs. $18.57 per hour, in 2012 dollars).
The narrowing of the gap can be attributed mainly to the rising earnings of women. Armed with more education, greater labor force participation and an increased presence in more lucrative occupations, women have seen their median hourly wages rise by 25 percent over the past 30 years, according to Pew.
But losses for men—particularly young men—have also contributed to the narrowing wage gap. Overall, the median hourly wage for men decreased 4 percent from 1980-2012. The decline has been much sharper among young men (20 percent), contributing to the dramatic narrowing of the wage gap between young men and young women.
Overall, women account for nearly half of the U.S. labor force today – 47 percent in 2012, up from 43 percent in 1980. This trend is a result of the increase in their labor force participation rate, from 52 percent in 1980 to 58 percent in 2012. Among young women (ages 25 to 34), 74 percent were in the labor force in 2012, up from 66 percent in 1980. Labor force participation among men has declined significantly over the past 30 years, from 78 percent in 1980 to 70 percent in 2012. Each new wave of young adult men (younger than 35) has been less active in the labor market than the preceding wave.
The employment and wage gains made by young women in recent decades are undoubtedly linked to the gains they have made in educational attainment. Among older Millennials today (those ages 25 to 32), 38 percent of women have a bachelor’s degree, compared with 31 percent of men. And among younger Millennials (those ages 18 to 24), women are more likely than men to be enrolled in college (45 percent vs. 38 percent in 2012). These educational gaps in favor of women emerged in the 1990s and have widened since then.
As women have outpaced men in college education, their share of employment in the most skilled category of workers has risen sharply. In 2012, 49 percent of employed workers with at least a bachelor’s degree were women, up from 36 percent in 1980. And women have made inroads into higher-skilled, higher-paying occupations.
The Millennial Generation is comprised of those between the ages of nine and 31 years old. While credit unions have about nine percent of the Millennial market share, Rick Grady, vice president of Research for the Cornerstone Credit Union League, says it’s important to keep in mind that a large percentage of this generation is still in school; therefore haven’t reached their prime savings, checking and borrowing years. This is a market, Grady says, that credit unions should pay attention to.
According to Howard, the female Millennial market is very important to their marketing and business plan. To attract women of the Millennial generation, Diamond Lakes FCU focuses on e-services, including mobile banking, internet banking, electronic bill pay, person to person payments and transfers. They also consider different types of loans and loan marketing to meet the borrowing needs of this demographic.
“These are busy ladies who need services that keep them on the job, in the classroom and with their children,” she says. “Millennials are a tremendous borrowing market for our credit union. With their higher wages and evolving needs, they need loans to fit their changing (and growing) lifestyle.”
Fort Worth Community CU in Fort Worth, Texas is another credit union that is taking note of the opportunities that exist within the female, as well as the younger demographic.
Several years ago, the credit union launched Gabby, a digital "spokesgal," who has the gift of gab. Gabby is the brainchild of Rochele Drake, vice president of marketing with Fort Worth Community CU.
“We know that women make 80 percent of all financial decisions; therefore, women are an essential demographic for our credit union,” Drake said. “Women talk to one another. We share secrets and advice with one another. Gaby is that girlfriend that shares information. She has her own blog where she shares financial advice, recipes and gift wrapping ideas, as well as talks about community events and online deals.”
According to Drave, Gaby’s blog has had about 30,000 visits, with 30 percent of the visitors being returning visitors and 70 percent being new visitors.
“The whole point of Gaby is to create engagement with a female audience. She was never intended to push any particular product or service of the credit union,” notes Drake.
Gaby has been such a successful social media campaign, that the credit union has just launched another social media campaign, “That’s Spot On.”
“‘That’s Spot On’ was created to educate Gen Y about credit unions and the difference between credit unions and banks,” explains Drake.
The credit union is promoting “That’s Spot On” on its website, Facebook page, as well as on Pandora. They are also creating billboards, posters and web banners.
“The average age of our membership is mid-to-late 40s. Our goal is to attract a younger demographic, and we are confident that campaigns such as Gaby and ‘That’s Spot On’ are helping us achieve this,” notes Drake.
Drake encourages credit unions interested in reaching a younger demographic to “think outside the spot.”
“Identify your target audience and then get creative - step outside of your comfort zone,” she urges.