What Is the Gender Pay Gap?

by Amber Rambharose in Helping Hands

If you've heard the term and wondered, "What is the gender pay gap?", you're not alone. For something that affects half of the workforce, the gender pay gap remains shrouded in mystery and silence.

When people hear the gender pay gap explained, they often get angry—and they should. It doesn't make any sense. However, you can turn that anger into something constructive by working to get rid of it through informed change.

But first, let's get acquainted with the concept.

How Does the Gender Pay Gap Work?

So, what is the gender pay gap? Simply put: Women make less money than men for the same amount of work. According to the U.S. Census, women made 82 cents for every dollar that men made in 2019. Sounds absurd, right?

Even so, the gender pay gap has been shrinking. It actually used to be worse. The U.S. Department of Labor explains that when it was "discovered" in 1973, women only made 57 cents for every dollar that men made.

Oh, and in case you're wondering:

  • The gender pay gap doesn't care about education. Women with the same levels of education as men still don't make the same amount of money.
  • Occupation does not affect the gender pay gap. Women in the same career fields make less money across the board, according to government research that looked at over 350 occupations.
  • Think it's better in the C-suite? Nope. Even in these topmost positions, in which men outnumber women by 7 to 1, the gender pay gap is only slightly better: 85 cents for every dollar.

diverse group of coworkers around a laptop

Why Does the Gender Pay Gap Exist?

Sexism is quite obviously the main culprit behind the gender pay gap. A 2017 study conducted by the Pew Research Center found that 42% of women said "they had experienced gender discrimination at work, compared with about two-in-ten men (22%)." A quarter of women surveyed also reported that their careers were negatively affected by taking maternity leave.

There's a second layer to the gender pay gap to consider: race. Women of color, on average, make less money than white women which, as we know, is already less money than white men or men of their own race.

In 2019, the U.S Census tracked how many extra days Black women would have to work to make the same annual salary as white men. According to their data, Black women would have to work eight extra months a year to earn the same amount.

When the gender pay gap is explained this way, it becomes clear that this issue needs to be highlighted more profoundly. All women deserve to be paid the same amount of money as men for the work they do.

What Can I Do About the Gender Pay Gap?

While the most recent data suggests women aren't projected to make the same amount of money as men for the same work until 2059, there are steps we can all take to close that gap more quickly.

  • You can lobby your local politicians to support legislation such as the Paycheck Fairness Act.
  • You can throw your support behind raising the minimum wage to a standard that benefits low-wage workers across the boundaries of gender, race, and class.
  • You can speak up about the gender wage gap within your community. Cheer on the women in your life when they advocate for themselves in the office.
  • You can be transparent with coworkers about your salary so they can advocate for their rights to equal pay.

While all these facts and figures can be discouraging, there is hope. And it starts with you. Now that you know more about the gender pay gap, you can be part of the solution. By stepping up and speaking up, you can do your part to ensure women of all backgrounds are paid fairly for the work they do.

Are you inspired to make a positive difference in your professional community? Explore more ideas on the @tomsofmaine Natural Inspiration Pinterest board.

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Why It's Good

If you can answer the question "what is the gender pay gap?", you can become a stronger advocate for yourself and others.