Are Women Valued Less for the Same Work? Part 2: Wage Gap

The wage gap seems to be something that is thrown around a lot these days. There is the famous statistic that women make 79 cents of the dollar that every man makes. The straight comparison is concerning, but is it realistic?

The Skeptics

There are arguments against the 79% statistic. This video link sums up many of the arguments out there. These range from women choosing lower paying jobs to women having babies and wanting more time to spend with the kids. Yes, there are women who choose to work part time to spend more time with kids. There is nothing wrong with choosing to spend more time raising children, although we should be more accepting of men who choose this route as well. Certainly, the female role in the family may account for some of the wage gap, but can we assume it fixes everything?

A More Realistic Comparison

A recent study compares male and female college graduates one year out of college. This is a demographic where child rearing is not yet a large factor in career choices. Still, just one year out of college, female students were earning 82% of what male students were earning. Now, I know what you are thinking. The women chose lower paying majors and the men chose higher paying career paths just as many skeptics argue, right? Wrong! In fact this was a wage gap that was seen across all disciplines, even the female dominated field of education.

In a study by PayScale, the salaries of men and women were compared. A wage gap was clear between the two, but then adjustments were made for hundreds of factors. These adjustments allowed for a more reasonable comparison, for instance a male nurse and a female nurse at the same work level, or two engineers at the same level. These adjustments actually did correct for the wage gap in lower level jobs, but there is still a distinct wage gap in high-level management positions. Women who have made it to the top make 87% of what men do, and there do not seem to be factors which account for this.

Promotions

There is more to the story though. When adjustments are made for an apples to apples comparison, it accounts for people at the same job level. Where a contributor to the wage gap may lie is in promotions and specific positions. For example, engineering companies have very specific engineer levels and pay grades within those levels based on numerous factors. Of course if you compare a male and a female at the same engineer level and pay grade they would be paid exactly the same. Where the problem may lie is that women and men are not climbing the pay grades at the same rate. Could women be promoted to higher up positions less often than men? A great piece in the Economist discusses how women are actually far and few between in executive and CEO positions.

There are probably many factors that lead to differences in pay and women making it to higher paying positions. Still, it makes one stop and ask, “Why are there still differences?”

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