The gender pay gap is simply that women, on average, get paid less than men for doing the same job. All full-time female workers (across every skill or occupation for which there’s earnings data for men and women) earn an average of $0.83 for every $1.00 a man earns, according to the Bureau of Labor. That’s a gender pay gap of 17%. That percentage can vary based on industry, location, and race but the gap never closes.
It’s a controversial issue that you may have seen played out over the strong reactions to Audi’s 2017 Super Bowl Commercial on the topic, including comments that the commercial is “man hating” and “ignorant” to “touching” and “inspirational”.
There are several federal laws that protect employees from compensation discrimination, the most notable of which is the Equal Pay Act of 1963.
What You May Not Know
The pay gap is NOT manufactured.
It’s imperative to begin with this point due to the striking fact that many are in disbelief that it’s a real thing (Google it and you’ll see what we mean). Despite the passing of the Equal Pay Act more than 50 years ago, companies are still not being held accountable to close the gap.
The gap particularly affects women of color.
According to census data, black women are paid just $0.60 to every $1.00 paid to white men. For Hispanic women, the pay drops to $0.55 for every $1.00 paid to white men.
Women today begin their careers earning less than their male colleagues.
Those between the ages of 18 and 24 earn approximately 88% of what their male counterparts earn.
Women’s median earnings are lower at every level of education.
In fact, women are often out-earned by men with less education: the typical woman with a graduate degree earns $5,000 less than the typical man with a bachelor’s degree.
There is a “Motherhood Penalty”.
On average, women’s earnings decrease by 4% for each child they have. And while some mothers cut back on hours or accept lower-paying jobs that are more family-friendly, that explains only a quarter to a third of the motherhood penalty according to the study from UMass Amherst and the motherhood penalty findings were recently reconfirmed in a study done by an economist at Wellesley.
Women have a socially-learned tendency to subconsciously underrate their skills and accomplishments.
This especially occurs when women are negotiating salaries or meeting with bosses to discuss raises or possible promotions.
How It’s Being Fixed
Over the past five years, awareness and open conversation around the wage gap have increased. And some of that conversation has turned into action.
In 2015 and 2016, a series of state and local lawmakers introduced legislation to ensure equal pay for women across all sectors. These provisions are put in place to strengthen equal pay enforcement.
For example, New York City, Philadelphia and Massachusetts have all banned employers from asking prospective employees about salary history when interviewing for a job. A worker’s salary history follows her from job to job. Low pay at an early job can affect salary at a later one, because hiring managers often base their offer in part, on previous pay. The idea behind these changes is to help fix the wage gap more quickly by eliminating the previous salary reference point.
California strengthened its equal pay laws in 2016 by protecting an employee’s right to disclose their wages to colleagues and preventing employers from retaliating against a worker for challenging her wage. The state also put the burden on employers to prove that any difference in pay between workers is not based on their race or ethnicity, making the state in the first in the nation to establish such strong equal pay protections.
At the federal level, the first bill President Obama signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act of 2009, which extended the time frames for filing complaints so that victims of wage discrimination have more opportunity to challenge unfair pay.
One of the last acts of the Obama administration was an Equal Pay Pledge initiative, signing on more than 100 big corporations to participate. The companies pledge to conduct annual, company-wide gender pay analysis and help close any gender pay gaps. Signees span multiple industries and some of the biggest names include Amazon, American Airlines, PepsiCo, Johnson & Johnson, and Gap.
It’s still unclear whether President Trump will address the pay gap in his administration.
What You Can Do
Despite initiatives and programs aimed at fixing the wage gap, progress is slow. At the current rate of change, it will not close until 2059, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Though this is discouraging on the surface, it ignites a lot of motivation to fix the problem for the sake of our daughters, granddaughters, great-granddaughters and beyond.
1. Stay Informed
Ask your company what its policies are around equal pay. And if you’re comfortable, point out some of the policies above (e.g. not asking for salary history in hiring) or ask them to follow the lead of the companies who signed the Equal Pay Pledge in reviewing and correcting pay gaps.
2. Know Your Worth
Women often assume they are being paid fairly and that their hard work will be rewarded. As you’ve just seen, that’s not always the case. Here are some good times to negotiate.
When negotiating, stay positive and make sure you have alternatives to a monetary increase such as a bonus tied to clear performance goals or an opportunity to increase your employee value via classes, conferences, or mentorship.
At InHerSight.com, providing graspable data around issues like these is core to our mission. On our site you can find companies that have great scores for salary satisfaction, flexibility and more!