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The Truth About The Gender Pay Gap

WOL – You’ve probably heard that men are paid more than women are paid over their lifetimes. But what does that mean? Are women paid less because they choose lower-paying jobs? Is it because more women work part time than men do? Or is it because women have more caregiving responsibilities?

AAUW’s The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap succinctly addresses these issues by going beyond the widely reported 79 percent statistic. The report explains the pay gap in the United States; how it affects women of all ages, races, and education levels; and what you can do to close it.

The Big Number: 79 Percent

Did you know that in 2014, women working full time in the United States typically were paid just 79 percent of what men were paid, a gap of 21 percent? The gap has narrowed since the 1970s, due largely to women’s progress in education and workforce participation and to men’s wages rising at a slower rate. But progress has stalled in recent years, and the pay gap does not appear likely to go away on its own.

The Pay Gap Is Worse for Women of Color

The pay gap affects women from all backgrounds, at all ages, and of all levels of educational achievement, although earnings and the gap vary depending on a woman’s individual situation.
Among full-time workers in 2014, Hispanic, African American, American Indian, and Native Hawaiian women had lower median annual earnings compared with non-Hispanic white and Asian American women. But within racial/ethnic groups, African American, Hispanic, American Indian, and Native Hawaiian women experienced a smaller gender pay gap compared with men in the same group than did non-Hispanic white and Asian American women.

Age Is More than Just a Number

Earnings for both female and male full-time workers tend to increase with age, with a plateau after 45 and a drop after age 65. The gender pay gap also grows with age, and differences among older workers are considerably larger than gaps among younger workers. Women typically earn about 90 percent of what men are paid until they hit 35. After that median earnings for women are typically 76–81 percent of what men are paid.

Education Is Not an Effective Pay Gap Solution

As a rule, earnings increase as years of education increase for both men and women. However, while more education is a useful tool for increasing earnings, it is not effective against the gender pay gap. At every level of academic achievement, women’s median earnings are less than men’s median earnings, and in some cases, the gender pay gap is larger at higher levels of education.

Here are changes that can help close the wage gap.

For companies

While some CEOs have been vocal in their commitment to paying workers fairly, American women can’t wait for trickle-down change. AAUW urges companies to conduct salary audits to proactively monitor and address gender-based pay differences. It’s just good business.

For individuals

Women can learn strategies to better negotiate for equal pay. AAUW’s salary negotiation workshops help empower women to advocate for themselves when it comes to salary, benefits, and promotions. (aauw/nia)

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