The median annual difference in the pay gap between men and women is 20%. That means for every dollar a man is paid, a woman is paid only 80 cents.
What’s the cause of the gender pay gap, and what’s the best way to fix it?
Myths Vs. Facts
The first step in addressing the gender pay gap is to dispel some myths about the problem. Here are the top three.
1) “Women earn less because they take time off for motherhood.”
A 2010 study by the University of Massachusetts found that fathers in the U.S. earn 11% more than non-fathers. Meanwhile, research has shown that employers are less likely to hire women with children compared to childless women. And that if they do choose to hire a mother, employers offer a lower salary than they do to other women.
That means employers “punish” women with children with a motherhood penalty, whereas fathers actually earn more when they have children.
2) “The gender pay gap isn’t real – if it was, wouldn’t companies only hire women in order to save money?”
Making hiring decisions based on gender is illegal. This is true whether women or men are being discriminated against.
3) “Women aren’t assertive enough to ask for raises.”
A 2007 study found that male employers are less likely to hire a woman who negotiates about salary. That’s because they perceive these women to be too “demanding.”
Causes Of The Gender Pay Gap
Among men and women employed full time, 60% of the wage gap can be attributed to “known” or “measurable” factors. These include work experience, union status, and choice of occupation.
But what causes the remaining 40% of the wage gap? Analysts haven’t found either an obvious or a measurable reason for it. This leaves other possible explanations. These could include overt sexism or unintentional gender-based discrimination.
What are some solutions for closing the gender wage gap?
Raise the federal minimum wage. Two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women. And two-thirds of workers in low-wage, tipped occupations are also women. That means raising the federal minimum wage would have a disproportionately large effect on women’s wages – with the added benefit of also raising the pay for men in equivalent jobs.
Ensure access to affordable childcare. A 2013 study conducted by the Center for American Progress found that women lose a total of $274,044 (and men lose a total of $233,716) in lifetime wages and benefits when they leave the workforce early due to caregiving responsibilities. Yet only three states have policies in place that guarantee both parents the right to take paid time off to care for children.
Just like with raising the federal minimum wage, ensuring affordable childcare would benefit everyone, not just women.
Encourage women to discuss pay with co-workers. Pay transparency can level the playing field for women. “It’s a very basic check on discrimination,” says Ariane Hegewisch of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. “If you don’t know whether you’re paid equally you can’t enforce your right.”
Sources: Work QZ, Five Thirty Eight, NOW, Huffington Post, American Progress