The Truth in the Gender Pay Gap

I’m not sure about you, but I’m getting fairly weary of the angry women. The ones who seem to have a multi-tiered platform they are fighting for. Amidst the placard-carrying, strident-marching, hat-wearing, mic-grabbing females is a long list of items that they deem need to be changed. It makes me want to walk the other way or turn the channel. But just because they are capable of becoming tiresome (at least to me), it’s not to say they have nothing to be frustrated about. (Click here to read about what I think a strong woman really looks and sounds like.)

I think there is one item in particular that is deserving of a little more inspection: equal pay for equal work. A lot of women today find themselves as the primary wage-earner. Whether supporting themselves or a family, it is the responsibility of many women to earn enough income to pay the bills. So, if there is truth that this disparity still exists, the effect on the ability to maintain independence is significant. This suddenly becomes a platform in need of change. Before a problem can be addressed or change can be created, one must fully understand the real story behind today’s statistical gap.

When listening to those who stridently maintain that this disparity does exist, you will frequently hear that the gap lies somewhere between 20 to 25% less than men. Yet, a recent study done by Glassdoor Survey indicates that 7 of every 10 employed adults in the workplace believe there is no gap in pay between genders. When one voice is stating such a huge percentage difference but a large number of those who are in the workplace disagree with that premise, where can you turn to find the facts in this conversation?

If you repeat statistics heard through a microphone or make assumptions based upon personal experience, then you are short-changing the conversation. So, we are not going to do that. As in most polarizing conversations, truth is usually found somewhere between both views.

Let’s start at the very basics. Is it true that there is inequality in pay within the workplace? The simplest calculations compare what an American woman earns verses her male counterpart. This has established the baseline gap of approximately 79 cents to every dollar. This is the information most current conversations use.

Since it appears many don’t believe that to be true in their workplace, why the difference between workplace perception and these statistics?

Actually, the simple formula used requires further examination. To compare apples to apples as they say, you must remove the equation that simply addresses the gender difference across all jobs, all women in the workplace compared to all men in the workplace. You then replace it with the gender difference within individual occupations. When you do this, the results change.

By using the pay scale between men and women in the exact same job a gap still exists, yet it lies somewhere between 5 to 7%. In other words, when you compare a male within a service industry to a female in the same service industry, or a male engineer to a female engineer, the disparity is much smaller.

Well, that’s an encouraging bit of information, isn’t it? However, when it comes time to pay the bills that 5 to 7% would make a huge difference in making ends meet. So, this is a discussion we definitely need to have. As in many divisive conversations, there is another layer, a larger factor at play than just percentages that needs to be understood.

That reality is called the “gender occupational segregation.” Have you noticed there’s a name for everything these days? It doesn’t matter what the subject is, it has to have a name attached to it. Maybe it’s so that we are all on the same page, or perhaps it’s to make us think we are really smart if we know it.

Whether named or not, this occupational gap was examined in The Atlantic Magazine, using the US Census data report. The results were this: the highest paying jobs had the lowest number of women in them. In fact, in the field of engineering (one of the highest paying fields) only 13% are women. The counter side to this is that women occupy 87% of nursing positions and 81% of social work positions.

I would say that it appears by our nature that we often choose the caretaking jobs which do generally pay less. In fact, in an article by the Harvard Business Review, the majority of women who enter engineering do so (in addition to their love for math) because they want to be socially responsible with their degree, making others’ lives better. We just bring our nature with us to whatever we pursue, don’t we ladies? This does not mean many of us are not capable of the STEM jobs, we are. But as we pursue our career choices we have to recognize our pay scale will follow.

So, what’s a girl to do? How about this: choose the profession you love and follow the purpose you were created for, where your natural talents and abilities will thrive. No matter the size of the paycheck, if you’re not happy in your job, more money isn’t going to change that!

Finally, do thorough research of your chosen occupation. Determine the pay your position should command based upon education, experience, and location…not gender. Then, enter your interviews or annual reviews confident in that information as you request your pay; not more than nor less than any worker in that position deserves, no matter your gender.

I don’t think you have to join the clamoring women to make a change. I believe a change can be made when we individually make stands within the market we are entering, armed with the right information, neither inflated nor dismissed. We need to do this for ourselves, we need to do this for our families, and we need to do it for the ladies who will step into our career paths long after we have moved on.

You’ll also like Freedom from the Glass Ceiling and the Glass SlipperAnatomy of a Strong WomanMen and Women Are Equal, but Not IdenticalBeing a Successful Leader Starts With You, and How to Get Your Dream Job

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