Takiung a Look at the Gender Wage Gap

Julie Shenkman
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As of 2017, the gender pay gap has been the source of much debate and questioning over the past 10 years, and is a widely-misunderstood statistic on both sides. On average, women make approximately 79 cents for every $1 that men earn, but that figure in itself is misleading when taken on its own. However, it does highlight some serious issues of gender expectations in the workforce.

Primary reasons why women typically make less than men include that women are less likely than men to negotiate, they tend to go for "traditional" female roles that pay less and are more likely to accept child-friendly hours. This is partly due to traditional gender roles being considered when women and men choose what to do as a career.

As an example, women are commonly employed as nurses, teachers and secretaries, while men are more likely to get managerial roles, and work in STEM or in transport or construction. This accounts for approximately half of the gender pay gap, with certain groups calling this "occupational segregation." It seems difficult to know what to do about this other than to encourage women to apply for nontraditional careers, including jobs in STEM. However, this has traditionally proved difficult, possibly due to the macho culture sometimes found in these careers.

Negotiating Pay

Women are much less likely to negotiate higher pay. This, of course, is exacerbated by the secrecy surrounding pay, with roughly equal numbers of men and women saying that discussion of wage and salary is punishable. However, approximately half of all men are likely to request an increase in salary, while only an eighth of women are likely to do the same. Over the years, this could amount to $2 million across a single person's career, further increasing the gender pay gap.

Many businesses get around this by evaluating the job rather than the person, and this means the job is graded based on criteria. It is particularly common in government and academia, where pay grades are often published for absolute transparency and to eliminate the gender pay gap.

Other Causes of the Gender Pay Gap

Women are more likely to be in part-time work than men, often due to traditional gender roles. This contributes a significant amount to the gender pay gap; although businesses are not supposed to discriminate based on full-time and part-time work, they do so anyway. As a result, women are often penalized for working fewer than 40 hours a week. This also affects their promotion prospects, as senior roles tend to be full time. Similarly, there can be subtle discrimination based on maternity leave, as women often have to leave the workforce for a significant period of time and may not return.

The gender pay gap has many facets, and many of them are misunderstood, often willfully, by various groups. Unfortunately, many of the issues raised are partly due to the current culture where both women and men take on traditional roles, with men more likely to do dirty and dangerous jobs, and women more likely to accept lower-paid jobs that allow them flexible working time.

Photo courtesy of Mike Lict at Flickr.com


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