Did You Know These Facts About Gender Pay Disparity?

Equal Pay Supporters Holding Banner
Associated Press photo

Pay disparity between genders is a significant political issue today in the United States, and one that some will deny exists. Pay equity efforts led by non-profit organizations along with local and state governments have improved salaries for women over the years but a wage gap persists.


Facts & Numbers

The first thing we need to address is a particularly widespread misunderstanding about the wage gap. Everyone has heard that women make, on average, 80 cents to every dollar a man makes, but what does that actually mean? It does not mean that every female worker gets paid 80 percent for doing the same work. What it means is that all women make about 80 percent of the income of all men. This Pew Research Center study can also help us put a finer point on some of those numbers. In 2015, women on the whole made 83 percent as much as men. But, women below the age of 35 made 90 percent as much as their male counterparts. This trend indicates that the wage gap is slowly disappearing. But why does it exist at all?


The causes of pay disparity are often disputed, and like with most wide-reaching social issues there’s probably no one root cause. Some degree of it may be just plain sexism, and deliberately underpaying women for the same labor. But, the two main issues we're going to look at are the distribution of jobs and the cultural forces behind that (recognizing that this isn't universally true across communities). Probably the largest issue today in resolving pay disparities is that women are underrepresented in high-paying managerial and STEM positions. The other major issue is that women are significantly more likely to experience interruptions—e.g. taking time off to take care of family—which affect their long-term opportunities. Why?

There are a few cultural issues at work here. The first is that despite research about the benefits of fathers taking active parenting roles, there is still a widespread expectation that it is a woman’s responsibility to raise children. Women end up being passed up for promotions because employers fear they’ll take long leaves and women returning from maternity leave encounter reduced pay, reduced hours and fewer responsibilities. Another related expectation is that women should be more nurturing and more sensitive than men: this affects people's perceptions of women in positions of authority and has influenced a larger trend of women being discouraged from negotiating higher pay. You've probably heard someone complain about assertive women being "bossy" (or other unsavory terms), while also praising decisiveness and assertiveness as leaderly qualities.


Possible Solutions

The biggest step that may be undertaken to end gender pay disparity is to break down or reexamine the social expectations that create it. Adjusting social expectations could include actions such as encouraging fathers and mothers to take equal responsibility for parenting, removing the misconception that women can't be authoritative, and encouraging young women's interests in STEM fields. Consider what you can do to create a culture where people can succeed regardless of their gender, and can engage with their gender identities freely.


By Logan Chamberlain




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