Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
The Writer Christine de Pizan at Her Desk

Saturday, February 20, 2016

One More Time on the Gender Pay Gap

Pay Equity--AGAIN!!!

I've posted on pay equity before: here, for example, and, more extensively, here. But this week the AAUW published its most recent analysis: The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap.

While noting that the gender pay gap has narrowed over the last fifty-three years (John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act in 1963), most of this change is "due largely to women's progress in education and workforce participation and to men's wages rising at a slower rate."

The gap is still sizeable--21%. In other words, "women working full time in the United States typically were paid just 79 percent of what men were paid."

Many critics have tried to dismiss the pay gap by saying that the disparity exists "just" because women make different "personal choices." Women just "choose" lower-paying jobs and professions, and they just "choose" to work part-time and to take time out of the workforce.

It is true that jobs typically filled by women are lower paying. Whether they are childcare workers or office workers, elementary school teachers or social workers and nurses, women find that the jobs where they predominate--no matter how valuable to society--are lower-paying than equivalently skilled men's work.

But even this kind of "life choice"--"choosing" lower-paying jobs--doesn't fully explain the wage differences between men and women. The AAUW finds that "just one year after college graduation, women were paid 82 percent of what their similarly educated and experienced male counterparts were paid." And 10 years after graduation, "the pay gap widened, and women were paid only 69 percent of what men were paid." From the age of 35 through retirement age, "women are typically paid 76 to 81 percent of what men are paid depending on age."

Another reason frequently given for the wage gap is women's "choice" to have children. But while becoming a parent is a "life choice" of both men and women, it's women who still pay the price. The "motherhood penalty" not only reduces women's wages, it affects their professional opportunities. Employers "are less likely to hire mothers compared with childless women, and when employers do make an offer to a mother, they offer her a lower salary than they do other women." 

And there is no "fatherhood penalty"--fathers "do not suffer a penalty compared with other men"  when they become a parent. In point of fact, "[m]any fathers receive a wage premium after having a child."

The gender pay gap cannot be explained away by such "life choices." For those with a college degree:
After accounting for college major, occupation, economic sector, hours worked, months unemployed since graduation, GPA, type of undergraduate institution, institution selectivity, age, geographical region, and marital status, . . . a 7 percent difference in the earnings of male and female college graduates one year after graduation was still unexplained. 
Similarly, [there is] a 12 percent unexplained difference in earnings among full-time workers 10 years after college graduation.
Here's one more thing you may not have considered. A recent study found that five years after they graduated from college, "women working full time had paid off 33 percent of their student loan debt on average, while men working full time had paid off 44 percent of their debt."

All this is just looking at the averages for all women. It should not be surprising that the news is even worse for women of color. 

In other news this week . . . 

Student researchers from Cal Poly (San Luis Obispo) and North Carolina State University reported on their their findings about women coders. Their research revealed that the contributions of female coders to projects were more readily accepted those of their male counterparts--until their sex was revealed. Once they are identified as women, their acceptance rates drop, and their work is more often rejected. For a report by The Washington Post with links to the study, click here

And if all this isn't depressing enough, Science magazine reports that women even get screwed when it comes to selling on eBay: "A study of more than 1 million auctions on the online commerce site eBay finds that women receive consistently less money than men for selling the very same products." Here's the link.

Update, 2 January 2021: To keep the links working on the blog, I try to update them. So the link for the The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap still takes you to the 2016 report. If you would prefer an updated report--from 2018, with additions from 2021, click here! (Update, 4 January 2023: You can now access the 2022 report at the same link.) 

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