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BizReport : Internet Marketing 101 : January 21, 2021

Closing the Gender Wage Gap: How are We Doing?

Women in the US have historically earned less than men. We see this playing out when they do the same job as men as well as when their earnings are taken as a whole regardless of the position or industry.

The data gathered by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and other reliable sources confirm this.

While it's broadly understood that gender discrimination plays a major role in perpetuating this disparity, many other factors also contribute:

Differences in industries or positions
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2018 census, women account for 19% of software developers, 27% of chief executives, 37% of lawyers. On the other hand, they account for 89% of registered nurses and 80% of elementary and middle school teachers.

Gender norms
Societal ideals for men and women, perpetuated largely by the media and by religious organizations, become ingrained in the community and in the minds of young men and women. This contributes to shaping the expectations of gender roles, which often seek to promote men as the breadwinners, active in the workforce, and women as the caregivers, active in the home.

Differences in levels of experience
Factors, such as gender norms, which historically played a more significant part in keeping women out of the workforce than they do today, continue to have a ripple effect on the wage gap. Pregnancy and childcare can account for some of the reasons why women, collectively, spend a shorter amount of time in the workforce. However, with under 20% of workers in the private sector having access to paid family leave, women are often driven out of the workforce either temporarily or permanently when starting a family.

Behind the Numbers
It is important not to confound the wage gap, which considers earnings regardless of the sector of activity, with equal pay for equal work.

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 aims to abolish discrimination in the workplace based on gender. It essentially makes it a punishable offense to pay women less than men for the same job.

And since the passing of the EPA, we have seen an improvement in narrowing the wage gap. Over the past fifty years, for example, women have gone from earning 62% in 1979, in proportion to men's earnings, to 82%. However, that increase has stagnated since 2011.

The EPA, as well as social and political movements striving for equal pay for equal work, while noble and effective to an extent, do not take into account the factors that perpetuate the wage gap, the factors that contribute to women earning less than men when the variety of positions held are taken as a whole.

Since 1970, the percentage of working women who hold a bachelor's degree or higher has increased nearly fourfold, from 11% to 44%. However, as much as we expect to see a correlation between the level of education and level of pay, that correlation among women in the workforce has not held true.

A Cycle of Precedence
Often, a new recruit's salary is calculated based on the recruit's expectations and/or on their prior salary history. When a worker changes jobs, they and their new employer base salary expectations on what the recruit has earned over the course of their career path.

This practice, which is understandable in part, makes it even more difficult to correct for historical errors. How can we eradicate the effects of discrimination if we set salaries directly based on those effects?

Furthermore, in a recent study on gender bias in hiring practices, promotions and pay raises, it was discovered that men are called back for a second interview at a rate of nearly 2:1 compared to equally qualified women. And when negotiating a pay raise, though women ask for a salary increase just as often as men, it is reported that men have a significantly higher likelihood of success.

While steps have been taken, such as the EPA and campaigns to raise awareness of the problem, most of these actions are focused on addressing outright discrimination as it regards equal pay for equal work.

Without taking into account the other less obvious factors, such as gender norms, societal expectations, and the de-unionization of our industries which correlates to a lack of reasonable family leave, we will most likely suffer this inequity for far longer than an industrialized first-world nation should.


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