Closing the Gender Pay Gap
The gender pay gap is not a 21st-century problem. It has been deeply ingrained in our culture for generations and has far-reaching consequences. While progress has been made, most notably among younger workers, there is still much work to be done to achieve pay equity for women.
What is the Gender Pay Gap?
The gender pay gap represents a stark disparity in earnings between men and women, often resulting in the latter earning less for the same work or work of equal value. Women workers in the U.S. earn approximately 83 cents for every dollar that the American man earns. This discrepancy has held steady in the last 20 years, although we’ve seen some narrowing among women ages 25 to 34. This group earned an average of 92 cents for every dollar a man in the same age group earned. Unsurprisingly, the pay gap is even greater for women of color. For example, black women earn 60 cents, and Latinas earn 55 cents for every dollar white, non-Hispanic men earn.
Causes of the Gender Pay Gap
Much of the gender pay gap has been explained by measurable factors such as educational attainment, occupational segregation, and work experience. Women have gained momentum in these areas yet remain overrepresented in lower-paying occupations relative to their share of the workforce.
Occupational Segregation: One of the key contributors to the gender pay gap is occupational segregation. Women are often concentrated in lower-paying industries and jobs, such as education and healthcare, while men dominate higher-paying fields like engineering and technology.
Motherhood Penalty: Women who become mothers often face a significant reduction in their earning potential. This is due to taking time off work to care for children, reduced work hours, and workplace biases against mothers.
Discrimination: Gender discrimination, both explicit and implicit, continues to be a major factor in the gender pay gap. Women may be paid less than their male counterparts for the same job, face obstacles in career advancement, or be subjected to biased hiring practices.
Lack of Negotiation: Research suggests that women are less likely to negotiate their salaries compared to men. This can result in women starting their careers at a financial disadvantage and perpetuating the pay gap over time.
Efforts to Close the Gender Pay Gap
Addressing the gender pay gap requires a multi-faceted approach involving individuals, employers, policymakers, and society as a whole. Some strategies to close the gap include:
Pay Transparency is openly displaying information about salaries with employees and candidates. Pay transparency laws require employers to disclose salary ranges to job applicants in job postings, during the hiring process, or upon request. Currently, about 27% of the US workforce is entitled to salary transparency by law. However, when not required by law, over two in three (67%) HR professionals say their organization voluntarily lists starting pay in their job postings sometimes, often, or always.
What can employers do to close the gender pay gap?
Implement pay transparency: This reduces bias based on characteristics like race, gender, ability, and age rather than job experience and performance. Research shows pay transparency could reduce the gender pay gap by 40%.
Support flexible work policies: Approximately 61% of married-couple families in the U.S. have both spouses working. However, women continue to handle the main household tasks, according to a 2022 Gallup poll. They do 65% of the physical household work, such as cooking and cleaning. Employed women spend about double the hours daily on housework as employed men. Flexible work policies allowing remote work, part-time work, and job-sharing enable women to balance their careers and family responsibilities better.
Promote Education and Training: Encourage women to pursue careers in higher-paying fields through education and training programs.
Focus on mentorship: When women mentor men, workplace inequality improves.
Make equity a core organizational value: Create equitable policies and practices.
Progress is slowly being made to close the gender pay gap. However, much work still needs to be done to achieve pay equity for women. Implementing pay transparency, addressing the root causes, and promoting policies that support equal pay will go a long way toward ensuring everyone is compensated fairly for their contributions to the workforce.