The Troubling Truth About the Gender Wage Gap

Kelly Hernandez
A graphic of a chalkboard with the words equal pay and gender symbols written on it.
Reading Time: 4 minutes

According to Pew Research Center, in 2018, women earned 85% of what men earned. Additionally, the same study noted that four out of ten women have experienced gender discrimination on the job. Unfortunately, the gender wage gap isn’t the only form of gender discrimination still alive in our society today.

The myth of the welfare queen is still proliferated, a disheartening term used to describe a woman who “falsely” claims government benefits. There are also still instances of women lying about their income to appease the men in their lives. Even thoughtless sayings like “You play ball like a girl” are discriminatory but still commonly used. These age-old gender discriminations may have influenced the gender wage gap we still see today.

What Is The Gender Pay Gap?

Gender pay inequality is the gap in pay that women experience when compared to men who are in similar working roles. It can be attributed to several factors, including bias against working mothers, access to education, occupational segregation, racial discrimination, or gender prejudice in general.

Reviewing gender pay gap statistics and the history behind the gap can help us to better understand it.

Origins of Pay Disparity

During World War II, a large number of women began taking jobs while men were off fighting in the war. Since women were not seen as equal workers compared to men, most employers paid female employees significantly less than what men were earning.

The National War Labor Board urged employers to minimize this gender pay gap, but the request was voluntary. Most employers did not heed this advice and as soon as the men returned from the war, many women workers were promptly let go from their jobs. Employment was generally advertised separately for men and women, allowing employers to continue paying women less than their male counterparts.

On June 10, 1963, the Equal Pay Act was passed by Congress. This legislation made it illegal for employers to pay women less than male workers for the same job based solely on gender. While it seems the Equal Pay Act should have solved the problem of gender pay inequality, gender pay gap facts reveal it’s still a persistent issue that needs attention.

Does The Gender Pay Gap Exist?

Many people may ask “Is the gender gap real?” because they’ve been exposed to myths about the gender pay gap, including:

  • Women aren’t assertive enough to ask for raises.
  • The gender wage gap is exaggerated.
  • Women need more time off for motherhood or family obligations.
  • The gender wage gap is narrowing fast and will disappear soon.
  • Women choose lower-paying careers.

These erroneous assumptions may contribute to a false potential declaration that the gender wage gap is disappearing quickly. According to studies by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), in most cases, the gap is calculated by comparing the median annual income of full-time male workers to female workers. In some cases, weekly or hourly earnings are compared. Certain formulas only incorporate one ethnicity or industry when calculating the gender wage gap. By using inconsistent factors or not encompassing the entire workforce, the statistics can look different and are easily skewed.

According to the AAUW, gender pay gap facts and calculations can also vary by location. The calculations can depend on a region’s attitudes toward gender in the workplace, demographics, and the primary industries in the area. While the variables that are taken into account will skew the exact gender pay gap statistics calculated, it’s obvious that a larger wage gap still exists. This measurable gap is apparent in each calculation, no matter which factors are taken into consideration.

Gender Pay Gap Statistics

According to the AAUW:

  • Women lose out on about $500 billion each year due to the gender wage gap. Women earn a median income of $41,977 and men are paid a median income of $52,146.
  • The pay gap affects women’s ability to pay off student debt. Women hold
    two-thirds of the country’s $1.4 trillion of student debt. One in three female graduates have trouble paying off student loans while only 1 in 4 male graduates have financial difficulty satisfying their loans.
  • Women with bachelor’s degrees are paid 26% less than their male counterparts. Although women in the United States earn more college and postgraduate degrees than men, they’re still paid less.
  • The gender pay gap can be found in every industry throughout the country. The top three occupations where women lose the most money include financial managers, physicians or surgeons, and accountants or auditors.
  • Every age group experiences the gender wage gap. Women aged 20 to 24 are paid 90% as much as men, women between the ages of 25 to 54 are paid 89 to 78% as much, and women in the 55 to 65 age group are only paid 78% as much as men.

These gender pay gap facts conclude that the gender wage gap is very real in all industries, throughout all age groups, regardless of education. These statistics also imply that older working women are experiencing a larger gap in pay than the younger workforce.

Why Is There A Gender Pay Gap?

Women’s work history in the United States may have contributed to the current wage gap. The gender tax may also be a contributing factor to the wage gap, as well as the obvious link to home responsibilities, childbearing, and family life that women are associated with.

No matter which issues you believe have led us to the gender wage gap, there’s no denying that an obvious gap in pay is still present. Gender pay gap statistics don’t lie and they still conclude that, while the gap has improved, it’s still apparent in all working industries.

Will The Wage Gap Get Better?

While there is evidence of improvement, the gender wage gap is still a problem in the United States and much of the world. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, if we continue on this path, the gap will not close until 2058. However, the UN reported that the gap will not be bridged for another 70 years. Since a larger gender wage gap exists, female POCs will wait even longer to see the gap close completely. Latina women may need to wait until 2224 and black women until 2119 for completely equal pay.

If you’re a woman, you can help close the gender wage gap by asking for a raise when you think you deserve one. As a job-seeker, you can also ask for feedback on why you didn’t land certain job opportunities. This can help you to ensure you aren’t being discriminated against due to gender.

If you hold a managerial or supervisory role at your place of employment, be aware of gender discrimination in the workplace. Consider qualified female workers for pay raises and promotions, and allow your employees to discuss wages openly to ensure they feel they’re being paid equally and fairly.

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