In most cases, men are paid more than women — period.
People will try to tell you it’s because women do more unpaid work in homes, while men tend to work exclusively outside the home. People will also try to tell you it’s because the work men do tend to be in higher-paid fields, while women tend to cluster in lower-paying professions.
And yet, when men and women do the exact same jobs, men are consistently paid more. This is one of the fundamental truths of the gender pay gap.
What is The Gender Pay Gap?
In general terms, the gender pay gap is the disparity in earnings between women and men in any given field of endeavor. On average, women are paid 82 cents for their efforts for each dollar men get paid. And, perhaps predictably, the gulf is even wider when the discussion turns to women of color.
Black women see 62 cents for every dollar a white male earns. Latinas get 54 cents and Native Americans are paid 57 cents. The one bright spot in all of this is that Asian women, who typically outperform their white female counterparts, are at 90 cents per dollar. Now, with that said, there are groups within the Asian classification who do less well than others. Filipino women for example, earn 83 cents, Tongan women get 75 cents and Nepali women see 50 cents.
Why the Gender Pay Gap Persists
Employment Disparities – Women have long been systematically denied opportunities to enter the highest paying fields. When women do push through, they are often subjected to both passive and active discrimination.
Meanwhile, the so-called “women’s jobs” offer consistently lower pay and benefits. In other words, the work into which most women are pushed is valued less — even when it provides exceptional societal benefits such as teaching, childcare, and home health care work.
Years of Experience – The idea that women might be less experienced is also held out as justification for the pay gap. And, while it is true that men tend to be more experienced in certain fields, it comes back to the fact that women have excluded from these positions. Further, societal mores contribute to situations in which women are often required to pause their careers to raise children, tend to elderly parents, etc.
Hours Worked – Another rationale is that women tend to work fewer hours than men. This too, can be traced back to the pigeonholing of women in caregiver roles. In other words, societally imposed roles often force women to work fewer hours to accommodate caregiving and fulfill other unpaid obligations. This means they are more likely to hold part-time positions, which offer commensurately fewer benefits as well.
Systemic Discrimination – And then there is just plain, old-fashioned discrimination. Even though gender-based pay policies have been illegal since 1963, they persist just the same. The resulting lack of pay equity can follow women throughout their careers, when employers use salary histories as a gauge by which to make offers of compensation. This locks women into an infinite loop of disparity that follows them throughout their careers.
Closing the Gap
The solution to this problem is outlined in the reasons it exists. Remove the barriers to entry that women face in getting the highest paying positions. Ensure that women who get those jobs have a support system to help ensure their success. Institute skills-based assessments, rather than relying solely upon time on the job when hiring.
Make it just as attractive for men to fulfill the role of caregiver in the home as women, so the tasks can be divided more evenly. Make a concerted effort to sideline the discriminatory practices that keep women in lower paying positions — and base pay on skills demonstrated, as opposed to what they were paid on their last job.
In other words, the best way to close the gender wage gap is to acknowledge the truths of the gender wage gap and its existence and eliminate them.