Gender and race pay gaps, occupational segregation, and the care crisis hold working women back

RALEIGH (September 5, 2023) – A newly released report from the Workers’ Rights Project of the North Carolina Justice Center puts a spotlight on women’s workplace inequality. The State of Working Women – 2023 State of Working North Carolina report analyzes the impact of the gender wage gap, occupational segregation, and the caregiving crisis on working women in the state. The report is available online and in downloadable format at, and includes working women’s perspectives as well as interactive data visualizations.

State of Working Women comes on the heels of Oxfam’s newly released 2023 Best and Worst States to Work Index, which ranked N.C. dead last among the states for wages, worker protections, and organizing rights. The report from Oxfam also rated N.C. as the worst state in the country for working women.

“These are not problems without solutions, but our state’s employers and elected leaders have yet to meaningfully address them,” Ana Pardo, Co-Director of the Workers’ Rights Project at the NC Justice Center, said. “It’s no coincidence that working women are leading the charge to organize their workplaces here and elsewhere in the country; they have absolutely been pushed to their limits.”

The State of Working Women report highlights several key aspects of workplace inequality that limit working women’s economic security and professional potential. Some key findings:

  • Women are overrepresented in low-wage work. Women make up 64% of the workforce in the 40 lowest-paying occupations.
    Gender-based occupational segregation continues to sort women into lower-paying fields. Many jobs likely to be seen as more suited to women (like elder care and childcare) come with inadequate pay, and women working in male-dominated fields experience harassment and discrimination.
  • Women make less than their white, male coworkers, even in the same jobs. This gender pay gap is even wider for Black, Latino, and Indigenous women.
  • Women shoulder the overwhelming majority of unpaid caregiving. Despite constituting nearly half the working population, women still perform the bulk of care duties for children, elders, and sick or disabled loved ones. Nationally, the estimated worth of this unpaid labor is between $2.5 and $3.5 trillion.
  • The lack of affordable care options forces women into underemployment and unemployment. More than one in five women worked part-time due to childcare and family obligations, compared to just two percent of men.
  • All of these factors contribute to delays and economic instability in women’s retirement. Social Security payments are on average 20% less for women than for men, and among workers aged 65 and older, women’s average retirement savings balance is less than a third of men’s.

The State of Working Women delves into how these issues and others disproportionately affect women working in our state, perpetuating women’s poverty, preventing their workplace advancement, and delaying or otherwise limiting their ability to retire. Several women who contributed to this report are available for comment.