October 19, 2017

Mind the gap

 

When I finish my education, I plan to have a long career. I plan to work hard and make an impact in whatever career I pursue. However, chances are in whatever job I take, I will be paid less than a man because of my gender.

According to the Equal Pay Act, “No employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section shall discriminate, within any establishment in which such employees are employed, between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees in such establishment at a rate less than the rate at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex in such establishment for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions.” Legally, no women can receive less pay for the same work.

And yet, it is a documented fact that on average, a women make 80 cents on the dollar for the same work as men. Despite the documented evidence, the “myth of the gender based wage gap” persists in the minds of some.

In a frankly stomach-turning article on the merits of paying women less, Milo Yiannopoulos, a (so-called) reporter for Breitbart, claims that women “like” to be paid less because it gives them “freedom to raise a family” and that the money saved by paying women less should be used to investigate male suicide rates. However, its Yiannopoulos’ underlying argument that is the most misinformed and frankly deeply saddening; “There’s no reason men and women should be paid the same, when they don’t work the same.”

Women are paid less than men for the exact same work. The notion that women deserve to be paid less because they “don’t work the same” exists only in the same alternate universe where the Bowling Green Massacre occurred and where Trump’s hands are a normal size.

Some wage gap-deniers agree men are paid more because they are more highly educated. However, there is no evidence for this claim. For one, since women have obtained higher levels of education than men on average, which makes the notion that people with more education deserve more pay an argument for why women might deserve more pay than men. For another, women with every level of education earn less than men with the same level of education. Even women with advanced degrees earn 74 percent of what men with advanced degrees earn.

Work done by women is, quite simply, less valued than work done by men. As reported by the New York Times, when women begin moving into a field, the pay drops. For example, when women began working in parks or running camps, the pay dropped by 57 percent.

Overall, women dominated fields pay less than male dominated fields. 23 of the 30 lowest paying jobs are dominated by women, compared to 26 of the highest paying jobs are dominated by men.

Women who have children are often forced out of the workforce because few jobs offer the schedule flexibility needed to care for children, or they cannot find affordable childcare. In addition, women experience the “motherhood penalty,” women are less likely to be hired because they have children. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to be hired if they have children.

The severity of the wage gap varies based on race. Women of every ethnicity are paid below men of their own ethnicity, with Hispanic earning 92 percent of what Hispanic men earn, African American women earning 90 percent of what African American men earn, white women earning 76 percent of what white men earn, and Asian women earning 81 percent of what Asian men earn. The disparity between women of color and white men is far greater than the disparity between women and men of their own ethnic group. African American women earn 62 percent of what white men earn, while Hispanic women earn just 54 percent.

Although the wage gap has decreased over the years (in 1960, women made 60 cents on the dollar), there is still a long way to go to close the gap. At this rate, men and women will not be receiving equal pay until 2059.

How can we fix this? Well, America, like with most things, the first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem.

As a country, we need to take steps to address this issue. Companies should be encouraged to conduct salary audits to monitor differences in pay. Women should take more workshops that teach them how to negotiate for their compensation. Finally, the Paycheck Fairness Act, which hasn’t been changed since 1963, needs to be updated. Saying that the wage gap is a myth (despite the vast amount of evidence to the contrary) does nothing to fix the problem, it only normalizes it.

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