The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) examined in its November 2007 EBRI Issue Brief the percentage of working women participating in a retirement plan, how participation differs from men, and how the “gender gap” in retirement coverage is changing.

EBRI found that while there is still a gender gap in retirement participation rates, it has narrowed sharply as more women enter the work force. Here are some of the key EBRI findings concerning gender differences in employment-based retirement plan participation in 2006:

All wage and salary workers: Among all wage and salary workers aged 21–64, women participated at higher levels. However, women participated in a plan at an overall lower level than men, since more women than men tend to work part-time and part-year.

  • Women, all wage and salary workers: 44.9% participated in a retirement plan.
  • Men, all wage and salary workers: 46.2% participated.

Full-time, full-year wage and salary workers: Workers in this category are considered to have the strongest connection to the work force, and in this category women have a slight edge over men. Participation levels among workers aged 21–64 in this category:

  • Women: 54.4% participated in a retirement plan.
  • Men: 51.4% participated.

Full-time, part-year wage and salary workers: Participation among workers aged 21–64:

  • Women: 35% participated in a retirement plan.
  • Men: 29.4% participated.

Part-time, full-year wage and salary workers: Participation among workers aged 21–64:

  • Women: 26.4% participated in a retirement plan.
  • Men: 18.2% participated.

Part-time, part-year wage and salary workers: Participation among workers aged 21–64:

  • Women: 13.3% participated in a retirement plan.
  • Men: 8.6% participated.

Earnings level: The proportion of women wage and salary workers aged 21–64 participating in a plan was higher than for men across all earnings levels, except for the very lowest earners (less than $5,000 in annual earnings). Overall, EBRI’s Issue Brief reported that in 2006, participation in employment-based retirement plans fell to 53% among full-time, full-year wage and salary workers aged 21–64 (those with the closest connection to the work force). This was down from 55% in 2005.