Anyone who has ever worked in the restaurant industry can tell you that it can be incredibly unpleasant for everyone involved, but a new study has found that, in fact, it's an especially terrible place for women to work. To begin with, they make less money. Women servers who work full-time earn 68 percent of the salary their male counterparts make—and black women servers make only 60 percent. This disparity is explained largely by the fact that the highest-earning positions in the industry are dominated by men. For instance, only 19 percent of chefs are women.
Women tend to have the lower paying jobs, like server and host, in lower-cost restaurants. Sixty-eight percent of tipped workers are women, and tipped workers can be paid a lower minimum wage of just $2.13 an hour, as long as they make up the difference between that and the actual minimum wage of $7.25 an hour in tips (though many restaurants don't worry about whether their employees actually close the gap). According to the study, "[T]he lower minimum wage for tipped workers is essentially creating legalized gender inequity in the restaurant industry." And the consequences of this are real:
Servers—of whom 71 percent are female—are almost three times more likely to be paid below the poverty line than the general workforce and nearly twice as likely to need food stamps as the general population.
As if that wasn't depressing enough, the sexual harassment numbers for the restaurant industry are absurdly high.
Nearly 37 percent of all sexual harassment charges filed by women with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) come from the restaurant industry—more than 5 times the rate for the general female workforce.
Yikes. Add to that the fact the 90 percent of restaurant workers don't have employer-paid sick days or health benefits, don't have scheduling flexibility (which hits women caring for children the hardest)—not to mention the rude customers, the crazy hours, and the working all day on your feet that everyone in the industry has to contend with—and you have inexcusably miserable working conditions for women. It's obviously going to take a lot more than a few extra bucks down on the table to fix this problem, but in the meantime, remember to be extra nice to your server and tip generously.
Image via RetroClipArt/Shutterstock.