What is the gender pay gap and does it still exist?
In 1963, legislators passed the Equal Pay Act to abolish the inequality in wages earned by women in comparison to men. So, how have wages fared in the last 50 plus years since the bill became law? While the gap has gotten smaller over time, the rate at which it’s closing seems to have plateaued from a bird’s eye view. When we take a closer look, various states will see the gender gap close at different rates ranging from 20 to 200 plus years. These overall comparisons don’t account for the different demographics or job positions that see the highest disparities. The non-adjusted gap for women is around 79¢ on the dollar. An adjusted look will see that women in equal positions to men make 98¢ on the dollar. When refocusing our lens, we see women of color make less and have the hardest time rising the ranks of their chosen career, coming in as low as 54¢ on a dollar.
When we talk about the gender pay (or wage) gap there are a couple of definitions to keep in mind throughout the discussion:
- Non-Adjusted: The broad comparison of women and men’s wages by taking the average of each and determining a percentage difference. This correlation gauges the overall status without digging into the details for a more specific example. It is what it means: the gender pay gap.
- Adjusted: This is when you organize the data to get a clearer picture of the pay gap in specific demographics, geographical locations or specific job types.
- Occupational Segregation: This can be either horizontal or vertical. Horizontal job segregation is when the industry sees an influx/stereotype of one gender in a field like teachers/nurses/service industry roles. Vertical segregation is the hierarchical representation of the gap. This is often when we see men with the same experience as women in higher-earning positions. Shifts in the industry over the last 100 years have impacted both versions of occupational segregation and perpetuated stereotypes that lean on women as mothers or being emotional.
Gender is a spectrum, and so are the inequalities
Many sources comb through wage gaps, both adjusted and non-adjusted. When discussing the pay gap, those in marginalized communities should be the primary focus. Wage inequality is a result of systemic and social injustice. When we look at all adjusted data, it is clear that people who fall out of a cis-white-hetero norm are seeing the largest gap of all. Women in the intersection of race, sexual and/or gender identity, or who are non-conforming see the most significant setbacks and wage gaps. Transgender people see an apparent shift in their pay from before to after transition. This inequality can become just as nuanced when comparing women same-sex couples making less than men same-sex couples. Despite making more, men same-sex couples still earn less than cis-heterosexual men.
Closing the gap
So, what is there to do?
Look within. Start a fire and throw your imposter syndrome in the flames. Then let your confidence rise like the phoenix. It may sound over the top, but we mean it all. The first place worth should be recognized is in you. You can’t ask for a higher wage if you don’t believe that you are worth the increase.
Be an ally. If you set the wages, work in hiring, are involved in staffing, check your own biases. Are you overlooking a mother because you think she can’t commit? Are you concerned the way someone dresses might be distracting? There are many subconscious biases that need to be worked through. If you learn that others on the team who perform the same job with the same experiences are making less, be an advocate, and have a needed conversation with your employer. Also, ask yourself, does this job need to be 9-5 in the office or can your employees work around their children’s’ schedules?
Transparency. The Paycheck Fairness Act is a labor law that adds conditions to the Equal Pay Act, making it legal for employees to share wages and employers to be accountable for the corresponding pay scale. However, you don’t have to wait around for the law to change to do what’s right. Transparent pay practices is a way to ensure that employers are not discriminating.
Up the game. Unfortunately, we can’t always change the system but we can change what we bring to the table.
- Salary negotiation is a skill, and it’s worth learning how to do it effectively. Experts say that women should advocate for higher salaries out of college to ensure a better starting place from the get-go. If that time has passed, be sure to look up techniques anytime in your career.
- Going back to school to get higher degrees is expensive, but a tangible way to show you are more qualified.
- Fine-tune that resume and make sure it is industry standard. In a competitive market, you need to make sure you stand out across all platforms. This review should include the pdf resume, social profiles, and the confidence you carry in the interview.
- Find an industry respected mentor that can elevate your experiences and provide excellent recommendations.
There is no fun way to wrap this bad news. Currently, the wage gap percentages are what they are. Remember, though, we see the gap and are doing what we can ensure equal pay for equal work.