Sunday, March 1, 2015

Discrimination ~ Gender Bias Keeps Us from Earning What We are Worth

Equal Pay for Equal Work.  
It makes sense.  

In fact, it is astounding this is even up for debate. In what circumstance could it ever be okay to pay certain people less for doing the same work as someone else?

However, this happens every day. Despite earlier progress, women continue to make less than their male counterparts.  

While many reasons for this disparity are given (women work in stereotypically “female” jobs, women are less capable of excelling in a corporate environment, men have more burdens to support the family), the bottom line is that it is discrimination - pure and simple.

The AAUW (American Association of University Women) has studied these excuses and found them largely baseless. In a recent study, they compared the salaries of men and women who held the same position. They found that these women earned approximately 7% less.   

In “The Truth about the Gender Pay Gap”, another AAUW article, I found these 3 statistics most interesting:

  • Women Earned Less than Men Across the Board
This was true across multiple occupations, those considered “male” and even those considered traditionally “female”.
  • The Gender Pay Gap Increases with Age
Up until the age of 35, women earn close to 90% of what men earn. However, as women get older (and are presumably moving up in their careers), that gap grows to 75-80%.

  • The Gender Pay Gap also Effects Women without Children
An AAUW study found that one year after college graduation, when the majority of women do not have children, women were paid 18% less than recent male grads.

In all cases, no matter what kind of job women held, their age, or whether they had children, women were not being paid what men with the same jobs were being paid.

You can read more of the AAUW’s findings here.

Wage bias is found in every state in the U.S. 

Expert Market studied the difference between the average male salary and average female salary by state.

Louisiana tops the list with a wage difference of $16,453 and Washington DC has the least disparity at $5,850. As a national average, women earn approximately 77% of what men earn, with average yearly salaries being $49,398 for men and $37,391 for women (these figures are from a 2014 study by the AAUW).  

While these yearly figures may not get your attention, the fact is they definitely add up over time.   

According to this article by Karin Kamp, “Facts & Figures: Women and Pay Inequality”, “That pay difference of $10,784 adds up to $431,360 over 40 years!

Wage disparity effects our families, 
especially those where a woman is the primary or sole wage earner.  

Making less than what we are worth, limits the money available to many of us for even the basics - home, food, and education.   

And this difference also impacts retirement. Women, who on average live longer than men, have less money to fund their later years.   Less base salary means less going towards 401k contributions.  It also means less available for long-term savings.

The Wage Disparity problem will not be solved solely on the backs of women.  

It will take a combined effort. Government, Companies, Men and Women must all want the same thing.  We must all pay more than lip service to the  belief in “Equal pay for equal work”.

The real question then is; What Can We Do about It?

Women can learn better negotiation skills to close the gap. We can also help each other by not settling for sub-par pay.  

Men can help by actively encouraging the talented women in their workplace. They can act as mentors and supervisors whose goal is to see women promoted and paid the same as male employees.

Companies can put practices into place to support this. They can set up quality mentoring programs within their organization. They can also monitor their pay scales to find and eradicate any gender pay bias.

The Government must also take steps to not only enact but enforce laws to eliminate gender pay bias. The enforcement is key.  
One step our government can take is to stop salary secrecy. Many women do not even know if they are being paid less than their male counterparts because of the penchant for keeping salaries in the dark. Forcing this into the open will make it perfectly clear if companies are low-balling women’s salaries.

Our government also needs to pass better family leave policies. The United States is behind many other countries in creating laws that provide for paid time off for men and women to care for children. This can extend into increased childcare support. Help in these sectors allows women to get and keep quality jobs.

Equal Pay cannot just be a Women’s Issue.  
Everyone must band together to bring equality to all. Doing this now will create a better and equal world for all our children.

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