Posted by: emilyschoka | April 2, 2019

#EqualPayDay – the Gender Pay Gap

One thing that we have touched on briefly in class is the idea of a gender pay gap. For a long time, it has generally been the view that women typically make somewhere around 78 cents on the dollar compared to men. Today, I’ve been seeing a lot of posts on social media about this topic- since today is “Equal Pay Day,” the hashtag “#EqualPayDay” has been trending on Twitter all day. Since there are a lot of varying, and even polarizing, opinions on this topic, there have been a lot of posts in support of or against the idea of a gender pay gap. It seems that the widely accepted view is that this pay gap does indeed exist, but there are also many people who are arguing the opposite side, claiming that the idea of a gender pay gap is statistically inaccurate.

When looking through articles on this topic, I found many that supported the narrative of the prevalence of a discriminatory gender pay gap. However, I also found several in opposition; one particularly interesting article (which I linked below) was posted by Forbes in recent years. The article is titled “Don’t Buy Into the Gender Pay Gap Myth.” The author of the article recalls speaking to a large group of undergraduate women attending Harvard, and upon asking them if they believed they would face a gender pay gap in their future, they overwhelmingly responded yes. This was interesting to her (and I think she also found it sad), because these women had worked so hard to distinguish themselves from their peers and attend a very prestigious university, yet they still believe that they will face discrimination in their future careers. She says that the view from the outside is that these intelligent young women “hit the jackpot” in terms of opportunities to succeed after college, and that they would have a wealth of open doors for them. However, they still believed that they would face extreme gender discrimination in the workforce.

The author then recited some of the claims that women are essentially being shorted in their wages in the workforce- generally being paid somewhere between 77 and 79 per cent of what men in their position are being paid. However, she writes, these statistics are not reflecting the reality of the situation. She says that these statistics fail to account for a lot of factors that influence earnings, such as “education, years of experience, and hours worked.” She explains that in order to be able to truthfully talk about the gender wage gap, we need to make adjustments for these factors.

This article also includes an excerpt from a Slate article that says:

“The official Bureau of Labor Department statistics show that the median earnings of full-time female workers is 77 percent of the median earnings of full-time male workers. But that is very different than “77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men.” The latter gives the impression that a man and a woman standing next to each other doing the same job for the same number of hours get paid different salaries. That’s not at all the case. “Full time” officially means 35 hours, but men work more hours than women. That’s the first problem: We could be comparing men working 40 hours to women working 35.”

I think this is an important illustration of how the statistics could possibly be misleading when people see that women are making 77% as compared to men. It shows that we need to account for factors like working hours, among other things.

So, I guess my question is just what do you guys think about this concept? How do we decide what to believe, when there are so many opinions flying around and different statistics being cited? Do you think that the idea of a gender pay gap is accurate to the situation of women in the workforce today, or do you agree with this article that factors such as job choice, time in the workforce, and hours worked need to be (and are not being) accounted for when looking at these statistics? Do you think it’s dependent on the context/specific organization?

Here is the link to the Forbes article: https://www.forbes.com/sites/karinagness/2016/04/12/dont-buy-into-the-gender-pay-gap-myth/#66af8c4a2596

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Responses

  1. This was really interesting to read, thanks for sharing! I honestly had never thought about the fact that there are other outside factors to consider, which goes to show how often people simply believe the things they read without further investigation. I had assumed this argument about the gender pay gap meant that women who were otherwise equal to men received less pay than men did. It’s crazy to think about how many people believe the articles they read without looking for themselves at the accuracy of the topic and other sources backing it up or refuting it. After reading the Forbes article, it makes a lot more sense that women do receive slightly less pay. Like you said, women work less than men and may have less experience or years worked. The pay gap (at least in some circumstances) has to do with many other factors aside from gender. However, people assume that gender has everything to do with it because that is an easy assumption to make. That being said, I do think it is somewhat dependent on the context and specific organization. I know that gender discrimination in the workplace does still exist, so individuals should not forget this or assume it doesn’t exist. But I think the most important things are to be open-minded, look at multiple sources/opinions, and avoid assuming the worst.

    • I completely agree with Hannah. I think I have become completely ignorant of the fact that there are other outside factors that are influencing this pay gap that we see in society. I have always kind of just taken in what was said by my teachers, mentors, and family friends who are women and accepted the fact that it is likely that I will one day receive less pay than a man. However, the outside factors that were mentioned in the article such as education or hours in the workplace are extremely influential in the pay an individual should receive. After reading this article, which is from an extremely credible source, I think I am more aware of the factors that play a role in the equal pay gap and am more on the side of the situation and environmental contexts which are factors of who receives more pay.

  2. I have discussed the gender pay gap with many people in my life, and a lot of them tend to mention that the idea of a gender pay gap is a myth in today’s society. To this claim, I say BS. As you said, people do not take working hours into consideration but even more importantly, we tend to only think about the majority and ignore the minority. In these marginalized groups, women of color have a significantly larger gender pay gap than the average white, middle class woman. Also, the concept overlooks those with mental and physical disabilities, as well as illegal immigrants, who earn significantly less than men in their same job description. Yes, it is easy to look at the majority of women and say that the gender pay gap is now minuscule, but when looking at the numbers of women who are unequally paid in today’s society, we cannot ignore the marginalized women who also matter just as much as the majority.

  3. I think the article does raise some good points, regarding certain external factors that could influence pay between female and male. Education, experience, and total hours worked all play a part in one’s earnings, but I think the author of this article was very quick to dismiss the systematic biases that women face in the workplace. This entire semester we have discussed the challenges that women face, whether it be ones placed on themselves or by other people. I think that these absolutely play a role in the gender pay gap.

    When the author discusses the Harvard women, arguing that they are selling themselves short on their amazing education and opportunity for great job experiences, that also seems slightly dismissive of the kind of biases that they might face in the workplace. Maybe these women are entering into more feminine fields or more inclusive fields. But for women who are not doing that, the chance of facing wage discrimination is still very real.

    While I don’t necessarily agree with all of the author’s points, I think that conversations like these are very important to have to address practices occurring in the workplace. The only way discrimination, in any form, is addressed is through productive discussions, such as the one provided by this author.

  4. Based on what I have heard and read, there are other factors that play into why men make more money than women (in general). I agree that it is important to include variables such as career, education, experience, and hours worked into the equation before we make judgements. Once you take a man and a woman with the same job, same education and experience, and who work the same hours- compare their salaries. Also, I was talking with the woman that I interviewed several weeks ago if she felt her pay was behind that of her male counterparts. She believed it was, but she said she thinks it started when she was new to the job, and never initially asked for a higher starting salary. This is another factor to consider- are men more likely to ask for a higher salary than women?

  5. This is a great point to bring up since this is something that is obviously not easily examined. It is always important to be skeptical of articles or information that we read. Understanding the factors discussed in the article would be necessary when trying to make a judgement on information. I think it can be almost impossible to perfectly calculate the gender pay gap due to so many various factors although, I do think it is important to draw attention to this issue. This issue is important to understand because if it is true then as a society we need to be making effort in closing this gap for the equality of men and women. If this is not true and the gender pay gap is a myth then it is also important to understand so that we can be more accurately informed and stop worrying about an issue that is not real and can focus on more important advancements of women.

  6. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Up until high school, I listened to what people said – that the gender pay gap existed. But then I started doing my own research precisely because there were so many contradicting views. People will believe what they want to believe, and because there are articles supporting both sides, it will be a long time before people realize that women and men doing the same amount of work, whom have received the same amount of education and experience, who have both had equal promotions and starting salaries – are indeed paid the same!
    However, as you mentioned the gender pay gap also includes a candidates education, time spent working, experience, and position. And if a man is higher up and has received a better degree than a woman, and puts in more hours, then yes, he should get paid more!
    We should not, in my opinion, look at how to “narrow the gender wage gap” because – hear me out – that wording generates a belief that women and men at the same level of expertise are not paid equally. Instead we should be the generation who says “lets fix the promotion and education gap”. Because this is the reason why many men get paid more than woman. I also think Nora mentions a good point in the above comment, that women may be less likely to negotiate for a higher starting salary. This is an interesting topic because on one hand, if a man and woman with the same education and experience both start at the same job at the same time and a man negotiates his salary while the woman does not, he will most likely be making more money in 10 years. Yet on the other hand, can we truly blame this on society? I don’t think any company would flat out offer a women less strictly because she is a woman, but if she doesn’t negotiate – tough love but that’s on her.
    Yes, women are not often presented with the same opportunities as men, and there are so many reasons as to why a female may not be willing to negotiate a starting salary, but while we must preach for equal educational opportunities and fix the boundaries which hinder women from being offered promotions, we must also recognize that people who work there way up and put in more hours deserve a higher salary – regardless of their gender.

  7. This is definitely a great point to bring up because I know I had never really thought about other factors that contribute to the wage gap because people are so focused on gender. I don’t think the gender wage gap is a myth necessarily, however, I think the way many people view it today is inaccurate because they are basing it only on gender. I agree with Hannah’s comment in that people are ignorant to other factors that contribute to the wage gap and believe everything they see in the media without doing other research and just assume the wage gap is because of gender discrimination. I also believe the wage gap is context specific because it depends on the amount of hours a woman is working, her education and experience, as well as the field of work she in and if it is more male dominated or not. It was also said that men tend to work more hours than women, and therefore are getting paid more. I believe this is mainly due to women having to balance work and life and not wanting to stay as late in the office because they need to get home to their kids. There are so many factors that play in to the gender wage gap that are all context specific and are not all necessarily due to gender discrimination. People get so caught up in what the media is putting out there and they fail to realize there can be many reasons for a problem.

  8. I think this gender pay gap as a pretty direct relationship to women in leadership. Like you said, the statistic of women getting paid 78 cents to the dollar a men is making assuming that men and women are side by side working the same exact job. As much as we would like that to be true, this far into the semester we know that that is just not often the case. While women have progressed greatly in leadership and I have no doubt will continue to progress, as of right now men do typically hold positions of leadership. These higher up leadership jobs typically have higher pay. So with more men in higher paying jobs than women, it makes sense that women are being paid less than men. But I do believe that as the years go by, more and more women will have higher leadership positions in the work place and the gender pay gap will get smaller and smaller.


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