gender wage gap
Here is a piece of good news for all of us: women’s involvement in politics is skyrocketing. The ways to get involved are endless, including petitioning Congress, attending meetings and rallies for causes you support, holding elected officials accountable for their votes, registering voters, and running for office. Running for office can include running for school board, town council, state legislature, governor, or US Congress. Gail Collins of the New York Times writes that “groups that help prepare women to run for office are reporting an unprecedented number of website visits, training-school sign-ups and meeting attendance.”
My niece just had a baby and is worried about being paid less than her male peers. She is an engineer with solid work experience on her resume, and she intends to return to work full time. She wants answers from me about how to avoid becoming a victim of the gender wage gap.
Unfortunately, new research reported by Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times reinforces that, as a new mother in her late twenties with a college degree and a professional career, she is poised to become a wage gap statistic. I don’t know what to tell her about how to avoid this. Because most companies keep salary data secret, she will probably only be able to suspect unfair treatment but will not be able to prove it. The odds, and statistics, are stacked against her.
Misogyny is a difficult and important concept to understand if we are to grasp many of the challenges that women face in politics and in the workplace. One source of confusion is that misogyny is actually an umbrella term that encompasses multiple concepts such as sexism, patriarchy, gender-based oppression, and internalized oppression. Both women and men participate in perpetuating the misogynistic attitudes, behaviors, and practices motivated by hatred or distrust of women. Such concepts are largely unconscious in individuals and often institutionalized in the policies and practices of organizations and societal institutions. I wrote about some post-election examples of misogynistic behaviors in a recent article.
The gender wage gap is persistent. Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times reminds us that fifty years after President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, women still earn only 79 cents for every dollar men earn in the United States, and the gap in different occupations varies. Miller notes that women who are surgeons earn 71 percent of what male surgeons earn. I have written in a previous article about differences in pay for different racial/ethnic groups, with recent research showing that Hispanic women in Massachusetts make 56 percent of their male counterparts’ salaries. In her article, Miller offers ideas that are starting to generate interest and be tested by a few state governments and private employers for closing the gender wage gap. I believe these ideas are promising:
I am encouraged about the wealth of new research on the gender wage gap. There seem to be new studies published every few days on this important topic. What’s encouraging is that the spotlight is finally on this previously invisible problem.
What’s not encouraging is that progress in closing the gender wage gap in the United States seems to be stalled. A recent article by Eric Morath in the Wall Street Journal reports that “the gender pay gap is widening again because men’s earnings are growing this year at twice the rate of women’s.” Consequently, the earnings of full-time female workers in the United State dropped to 81.1 cents for every dollar a man earned in the third quarter of 2015 from 83.5 cents during the same period in 2014.