Gender wage gap: Not a myth

Wage gap is area of concern because it’s an issue that has gone on for decades

By Andrea Earnest | Bugle Staff

With attention to women’s issues and gender-based inequality becoming more prominent in the last few years, many of us have asked the question: Is there still a wage gap between men and women?

Despite the fact that I am a woman, and so have my own biases toward the question, it is clear to me that the answer is yes – the wage gap is not a myth.

Some have argued that because women tend to take time off for raising children and pregnancy, the difference in compensation is justifiable. Others point to the belief that women aren’t as aggressive as their male counterparts when negotiating salaries.

According to an article by Harvard Business Review, research shows that women are more reticent than men to negotiate their salary offers. The article states that this reticence is based on an accurate read of the social environment.

“Women get a nervous feeling about negotiating for higher pay because they are intuiting – correctly – that self-advocating for higher pay would present a socially difficult situation for them – more so than for men.”

These are just some of the arguments that I’ve heard time and time again when the topic of equal pay between men and women is brought up.

To be clear, I’m not talking about the wage gap between a woman who has only worked, say, five years and a man who’s worked 15. This example of a difference in pay is presumably based on experience and should be factored into hiring decisions. I’m talking about situations where a man and a woman with the same education and applying for the same position, yet the male employee is much more likely to be paid more.

The wage gap is a large area of concern for feminists because it’s an issue that has gone on for decades and received little redress. In a Time Magazine article from August, the author, Kerri Anne Renzulli, points out that some studies don’t take into consideration the fact that women do take more time off from work due to pregnancy and child care or that women tend to go into lower-paying fields. However, Renzulli notes that the gap still wouldn’t disappear completely. “You still wouldn’t get to zero.”

The gap would shrink to about 93 to 95 cents for white women, according to the article. Without this adjustment, statistics show that women make about 77 cents to every dollar a man makes.

And while the gap has narrowed since the 1970s, it does still exist – despite those who argue against to the contrary.

The gap is even larger for women of color. According to a study done by the American Association of University Women, Hispanic women were only paid 54 percent of a white man’s earnings in 2014. African American women were paid 63 percent, and white women were paid 78 percent of a white man’s earnings.

Even when all factors are equal, compensation is not. A 2014 study from the U.S. Department of Labor showed that there is still a 7 percent discrepancy between men and women with equal educations and the same career choices. Additionally, the gap increases as women age. On average, women under 35, or “millenials,” earn 90 percent of what men their age earn.

When education and career choice are the exact same, the wage gap still exists. And while it is clear that pay discrimination is a problem and steps have been taken to address it, why do women still find they are taking home less than male colleagues?

According to the National Organization for Women, the wage gap is not expected to close until 2058 at the current rate of increase. That means 2015 high school graduates will be 61 before they can expect equal pay.

During President Obama’s 2014 state of the union address, he expressed his own feelings on the gender wage gap. “I firmly believe when women succeed, America succeeds,” Obama said. “Today, women make up about half of our workforce, but they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns, that is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment.”

Later in 2014, on Equal Pay Day, President Obama signed two executive orders intended to narrow the gap between wages for different genders.

During his remarks at the event, Obama said on the gender gap, “It’s not a myth; it’s math.”

Well put, Mr. President.

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