If you ask women if they’ve ever been paid unfairly, you are likely to hear at least one story like this: A woman at her first job finding out that a male coworker, also at his first job, is making dollars more per hour, and neither negotiated their pay. A woman realizing the male employee she trained was making more than her. Or a woman who realizes that for decades she has made less than a male coworker, impacting not only take home pay, but also accumulated retirement savings.
The gender pay gap is real. The median income of women working full time in the U.S. is 80% of what men make. Women had to work until April 2, 2019, to catch up to what men made in 2018. And that is just the average. The pay gap is even more pronounced for women of color, with Hispanic women making only 53% of what white men make.
Some may say this is because women don’t choose jobs that pay as well. That may be part of it – occupation does matter. Jobs traditionally associated with men tend to pay better regardless of skill required, so a woman’s earning potential can increase by joining a male-dominated field. But, there is a pay gap in nearly every occupation.
Some may still dismiss the pay gap by saying things like “she probably wasn’t as qualified.” Yet, even in jobs where it’s possible to assess a person’s level of experience, education and certifications, the pay gap persists. American Association of University Women (2012) studied 15,000 students one year after obtaining a bachelor’s degree. Factoring out variables such as hours worked, occupation, major, GPA and employment sector, there was still a 7% gap overall. Computer and information sciences had the highest at 23%.
Occupational segregation, seniority, family leave and part-time work, affordable child care, as well as discrimination and bias in the workplace, are important for understanding the pay gap. Learn more about these factors atwww.aauw.org.
So, what can be done?
AAUW can help women develop salary negotiation skills through its online Work Smart course. FM AAUW’s April program slated from 7 to 8:15 p.m. April 8 in Room 272 of North Dakota State University’s Barry Hall will offer an introduction to Work Smart and provide an opportunity for women to network and to discuss strategies for obtaining equity in pay.
But, the solution should not fall on women alone.
Employers can conduct pay audits, prohibit retaliation for wage disclosure, ban the use of prior salary history when making hires, and be explicit about opportunities to negotiate wages.
Become aware of implicit biases and the impact they may have on your attitudes and behaviors. If you are a supervisor, consider whether biases affect who is promoted or gets better work assignments.
Keep learning and take action. Write letters to your legislators in support of the Paycheck Fairness Act. Share your experiences and the gender equity data on social media.
Lower pay is the reality for women, but it doesn’t have to be. Let’s work to end the gender pay gap.
Ducioame and Larson are members of the Fargo Moorhead Branch American Association of University Women