The Awful Facts about the Gender Pay Gap

Some of you may not know it, but the fact that there is gender pay discrimination is something that has been taking place since women started working. The salary of a woman doing the same job as her male counterpart is usually only 77% of the salary the man receives, according to the most recent report from the White House. Same job, same degree, same duties, and women get paid less. This means that women would need to work around 60 more days to reach the salary of men with the same job.

But why does this happen? There isn’t really a reasonable explanation for this, and it remains a matter of gender discrimination, even though many employers have ‘good’ excuses for paying men more than women. For example, one of the ‘reasons’ is that men have families to support (assuming that their wives are staying at home and not working), while women have husbands who work so they need less money. Equity is completely disregarded, and this is depressing because men and women receive the same education, make same efforts and men get rewarded while women fall behind.

This gap exists in the highly paid occupations as well, where the difference in pay is huge. For example, in architecture, women are usually paid 82% of the salary of men with the same job, which when put on paper looks horrible. Women of this occupation earn around $65,000 per year while men are paid around $79,000, which means that for the same amount of work, the same education and same worth, men get $14,000 more per year than their female colleagues. More education certainly provides a chance for better earnings, but it doesn’t decrease the gap between genders. The more educated women are, the bigger the gap between her and her male counterpart is, as is shown with the above stated numbers. Women often try even more than men and still don’t get rightfully reimbursed for their work. For things to get worse, according to the AAUW’s research report, the gap becomes bigger as a woman gets older. Until the age of 35 they are usually paid up to 90% of what men earn, but after that age the percentage goes as low as 75%. It’s like we are living in the Middle Ages and women are not considered as worthy as men, or as capable. This gap puts women far behind when it comes to saving up for the future or accumulating funds for retirement.

In the U.S. there is a gender pay gap in every state, but in some areas it goes to the extremes, while in others the situation has improved and the gap is not so horrible (even though, it would be nice, if not normal for both genders to receive equal amounts of money for the same work they do). For example, according to AAUW, this gap is the smallest in Washington D.C., where in 2013 women were paid 90% of what men earned.  On the other hand, Louisiana turned out to be the worst state when it comes to this gap, and women here received only 66% of what men earned.

This gap gets even worse if the women in question are of color. Asian American women have the most luck, and are paid 90% of what men earn, while Hispanic women barely keep it together with only 54% of a man’s salary. Now, besides making a difference between genders, employers also decide how much they will pay you based on your race and nationality. So, sometimes women of color who have had better education and are better employees have smaller salaries than less educated and hardworking men. The gap exists among women as well, as white and Asian women earn significantly more than black and Hispanic women who have the same level of education, experience and are as good employees as their better paid female counterparts.

Even in female-dominated and gender-balanced occupations women are paid less than men. But quite often women aren’t provided with the information about the difference in earnings so they rarely know about the gap, or they are unaware of how large it is. One woman, Kerri Sleeman from Michigan, worked at a mechanical engineering firm for 5 years before it bankrupted, and only then did she find out that all the men who were below her on the professional ladder, and whom she supervised, were paid more than she was. When she confronted her employer, he didn’t feel ashamed nor did he think that he had done something wrong, even though her qualifications were much better than all the men’s.

It is sad that employers decide how much we will earn based on subjectivity, their own prejudice, racial preferences, and gender discrimination.

This gap can be closed, but not only with the efforts of the damaged party, i.e. women. Policy makers and men need to get included and vote in favor of closing the gender pay gap, so that all the employees with the same credentials would be paid equally and the criteria for determining the salary set completely objective. We are living in a world where women work just as hard as men do and gender equity exists in most spheres of life; it is time for it to enter the business world as well. To decrease this gap as much as possible, if not destroy it, AAUW is progressively advising companies to “monitor and address” the differences in salary between genders, while to individuals they suggest learning better strategies for negotiating a higher salary.

If people from all ranks join forces, hopefully the gap will become smaller and smaller, until it doesn’t exist anymore.