Yes, we are quite familiar with the refrain – men earn more than women. This has been calculated, measured, and weighed, and employers obviously found wanting. Which brings us here. The thing is, we all need to worry about the pay gap, not just because it is gender-based, but because it is race-based too. And sprinkled with spicy details that make it imperative for both employer and employees to understand worth. Here are five juicy reasons why the pay gap must keep you up tonight.
- The Miscalculation Of The Gender Gap
Chances are you are familiar with the stats on the pay gap with expressions saying women earn 82 cents to the dollar earned by every man and wondering what it means. “The commonly reported figure—that a woman earns 80 cents for every dollar earned by a man—is derived by taking the total annual earnings of men in the American economy in a given year and dividing that by the number of male workers. This gives you the average annual earnings of an American man. Then you do the same thing but for women. The average annual women’s earnings come in at about 80 per cent of the average annual man’s earnings,” states fee.org.
When the pay gap talks about 82 cents to the dollar (this figure depends on which parts of the world and could range from 49 cents to around 84 cents), it depends on whether the woman is a woman of colour or Caucasian right down to which industry she works in and the amount of data available.
In March 2020, americanprogress.org calculated just how distressing this gap is by giving context. In 2018, a woman working full-time, all year, earns $10,194 less than her male counterpart. If the pay gap remains unchanged, “she will miss out on $407,760 over the course of a 40-year career.” How could this possibly be anything but alarming? If this does not terrify you, collectively, more than 55 million full-time working women earned an estimated $545.7 billion less than their male counterparts in 2019. Without this gap, $545.7 billion would be lining women’s pockets and their families. Distributed, it would add up to $9.6 million per woman. I don’t have to tell you what this money could do.
- Why Race Wars Matter In The Gap
On average, Black women in the US are paid 36 per cent less than white men and 20 per cent less than white women according to leanin.org. Here is the bad news. “From age 16, Black girls are paid less than boys the same age—and the gap only grows from there.” It gets worse. “Black women enrol in college at higher rates than men overall and—most notably—at higher rates than white men. But the gap is largest for Black women who have bachelor’s degrees—they earn 36 per cent less than white men with bachelor’s degrees on average.” It just so happens Black women are regarded as quite ambitious. They are far more likely than white men and white women to say they want to become top executives.
Black mothers are also far more likely to be breadwinners in their families. Their households heavily depend on what they bring home. Since they are paid less, they also have less money for basic necessities. Ultimately, their financial status is in jeopardy. They have less savings, cannot pay for higher education, or invest in property. Black men are paid less than white men. White men are basically paid more than anyone. Black and white men with the same experience and education doing the same job in the same geographic location are not paid the same. Black men earned 98 cents for every dollar earned by white men with the same qualifications. 2 per cent makes quite the difference when compounded over a lifetime. That much is not in dispute.
Black women suffer from two kinds of discrimination. Aauw.org notes that “Black women and girls live at the intersection of sexism and racism. While sexism and racism are distinct forms of discrimination that manifest differently, their effects are compounded when a person experiences both at the same time.” There is the career choice factor at play here. “Black women are more likely to work in lower-paying service occupations (like food service, domestic work and health care assistance) than any other industry and less likely to work in the higher-paying engineering and tech fields or managerial positions.”
- What Is The Cause Of The Pay Gap?
Everything and then some in this article. But let’s narrow it down a little. According to Harvard Kennedy School’s Women & Public Policy Programme in the video 3 Things You Should Know About the Gender Pay Gap, men and women tend to enter certain stereotypical fields when it comes to career choice. Men tend to enter higher-paying professions and trades such as building and construction while women, well, do not. Instead, they pick jobs traditionally regarded as female-friendly such as healthcare and caregiving. Take lawyers for instance. Some specialisations when it comes to law pay more than others. How much commitment one is willing to put up with in their career also brings in more money.
In my interviews with male and female CIOs, the male CIOs have tended to be more willing to put in more hours at work, mainly because they usually can – a trait oftentimes illustrated by their willingness to be on call at all hours. Generally, people who put in more hours are paid far more than those who have regular routines. This applies to men putting in more hours than women who opt for flexible schedules or keep regular hours.
It just so happens women in ‘male’ oriented jobs such as developers still face a pay gap compared with their male counterparts. In 2012, female computer programmers earned 84 per cent of what male computer programmers earned. Female financial managers earned an astounding 70 per cent of what male financial managers earned. Female lawyers (yes, it comes up again), earned only 80 per cent of what male lawyers earned.
- Education Has Nothing To Do With It
Women outnumber men at all levels of postsecondary education. In Women Can’t Win: Despite Making Educational Gains and Pursuing High-Wage Majors, Women Still Earn Less than Men, discrimination is detected. “Even when they do everything “right”—choose a high-paying field of study, pursue a high-paying major within that field, and get a job in a high-paying occupation—women still get paid less than their male peers. If a man and woman who are equally qualified get the same job, the woman still only earns 92 cents for every dollar the man is paid—more than 81 cents, to be sure, but a far cry from earnings equality.”
When it comes right down to the wire, this goes back to The Broken Rung. TBR refers to the very first promotion a woman gets in her career within the first one to three years of her working life. This period has a far greater impact on a woman’s career than previously thought. The paper above states women need to negotiate their first paycheck well because it will affect their earnings over the course of their careers. The gap widens with age, peaking by the early 50s. “Not only do women start off at lower salaries, but the rate of increase in pay is also lower over time. By his early 50s, the average man with a bachelor’s degree earns $34,000 more annually than a similarly educated woman. A man with a bachelor’s degree will see his annual earnings increase by 87 per cent over his career, but a woman with a bachelor’s degree will only receive a 51 per cent increase in her annual earnings over her career.”
- Quite A Number Of People Consider The Pay Gap Mythical
In Explained: Why Women Are Paid Less, a Vox documentary aired on Netflix, many of the reasons beyond the pay gap have since disappeared. Save for one tiny little significant factor that will forever remain unchanged – women will always be the child-bearers. They are also automatically expected to be the primary caregivers. In the US, mothers spend nine hours a week more than men on childcare and housework. “This is the height of the pay gap,” it declares.
The late 20s and early 30s, considered childbearing years, also mean one of the partners needs to stay at home with the child. Maternity leave and life nominate the woman as the primary parent. The man is more likely to get promoted because having a baby does not alter his career trajectory much. But the woman has to say no to projects, travel and assignments on occasion so she can take care of the child. By the time a decade has gone by, he can make partner.
She cannot because she is not up to speed and has lost time which gave the man an edge. She’s not earning the same at this point, and the earning potential diverges. The pay gap adds another fascinating element. Women without children earn more than women with children. Vox calls it “a motherhood penalty.” It continues, “A pay gap based on choices … is different than a pay gap because you are just a woman. And you just can’t get equal pay for doing the same thing a guy does.”
Now.org have even quantified it. “It is estimated that for every child a woman has, she suffers a 5 per cent wage penalty. Studies show that in comparison with female managers who are not pregnant, those who are pregnant are perceived to be less committed to the job, less dependable, and more emotional. Studies show part-time work, lower experience, and interrupted work only contributed to one-third of the motherhood penalty. Discrimination plays a significant role in the limitations for working mothers.”
If a couple is in a double-income home, it is not just the woman who is being robbed. The man and his family – if there are children – are all at a disadvantage too. Mainly because someone has to fill in that financial gap. Now, do you still think the pay gap is a non-issue?