Why A Big Gender Pay Gap Between Men And Women Still Persists In Modern Society

The reason a gender pay gap still persists in modern society is unknown, however, it could be related to factors like childcare and women not feeling like they can negotiate their salaries in the same way men do.

By Rick Gonzales | Published

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Today, March 14, 2023, is Equal Pay Day for women. What this means is that it represents how far women had to work into 2023 just so they could catch up to their male counterparts and what they earned last year. It’s a gender pay gap that continues, and we have but one question – why?

Why, we would like to know, does it take women almost 15 months to earn the same pay that it takes men 12 months? The numbers, as you will soon see, are consistently lower for women when compared to men and they get even worse for women of color. Here is what the gender pay gap looks like presently.

For every dollar a man makes, women will earn around 82 cents, performing the same job. For Black women, this figure drops to around 65 cents per dollar. Even worse, Latina women will see around 60 cents on the dollar compared to men.

Again, we ask, why? Why is there such an extreme gender pay gap? Why is there a pay gap at all?

To put things in even more perspective, this gender pay gap has remained virtually unchanged over the past 20 years, which is very odd because there has been so much change over that timeframe between men and women. What sort of change are we talking about?

Well, over that time, we have seen the number of women graduating college increase to where their numbers are greater than men graduating college. More women find themselves graduating from law school than men do. Finally, almost half of the students that graduate from medical school are women as well.

While these numbers represent significant progress, how come the gender pay gap is still so huge? Francine Blau is a Cornell economist and says for many women, childcare is the culprit. She feels many women turn away from demanding positions or cut back to part-time because they are looking for the flexibility and time necessary to raise their children.

“Women will choose jobs or switch to occupations or companies that are more family-friendly,” Blau explained. “But a lot of times those jobs will pay less.” While some cut back drastically on their work schedule, many others leave the workforce completely.

Still, though, taking all of those things into consideration – time off for childcare, flexible jobs and work hours, fewer hours – it still doesn’t account for the actual pay gap. Paychecks between men and women, more so hourly wages, are still not even. They aren’t even close.

Blau poured over every bit of data she couldn’t find as to why, in today’s society, such a huge gap remains. “It’s what we call the ‘unexplained pay gap,'” Blau told NPR. She then chuckled, “Or, you could just call it discrimination.” What she found out in her research is that in the same job, women perform as their male colleagues, they [women] earn about 8% less.

So, is there any good news when it comes to the gender pay gap? Depends on who you ask. The “good news” is that over the past two decades, the gap has actually shrunk, though very, very slowly.

The National Committee on Pay Equity started Equal Pay Day back in 1996 and now says that at that time, the gender pay gap was much further out on the calendar, now arriving over a month earlier. In fact, back in 2005, Equal Pay Day didn’t show up until April 19. Still, the fact that we are talking about a gender pay gap is embarrassing.

Advocacy group Equal Pay Today chair, Noreen Farrell, says, “March 14 is the launch of an entire year of Equal Pay Days that will highlight pay gaps experienced by women of different races, ethnicities, sexual orientation, and gender identity, and by those who are also mothers.” While Equal Pay Day for some women is today, Equal Pay Today says that Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders will see their Equal Pay Day on April 5, Black women will see theirs on July 27, Latina women on October 5, and finally Native and Indigenous women on November 30.

To highlight more woes of this gender pay gap, a published annual report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research says, “In 2022, women earned less than men for full-time weekly work in almost all occupations, including in 19 of the largest 20 occupations for women, and in all of the largest 20 occupations for men.” Yikes.

What they mean here is that even in jobs where women dominate – more women than men in specific positions – they continue to earn less than their male colleagues. Well, except for one position, that of a teaching assistant. For that position, it was the only one the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found where women and men earned the same weekly salary.

They’ve been asking why for years and still, there is no definite answer as to how to close the gender pay gap. One possible solution is to negotiate for a higher salary. Blau claims that many women fear backlash if they are to ask for more and besides that, going into negotiations can be difficult since they typically have no idea how much their male counterparts make, so they would have no idea how much they should ask for.

Thankfully, there is some progress on that front. There are now a number of states that are now requiring employers to now show their salary ranges on all their job postings. This will definitely help in negotiations.

Blau was happy with this. “They can get a real sense of, ‘Oh, this is the bottom of the range and this is the top of the range. What’s reasonable to ask for?'”

Still, the numbers aren’t good when it comes to the gender pay gap. Not only does it represent huge losses in income for individual women, but it also represents huge losses for families as well. The gender pay gap can affect funds necessary for emergencies and basic expenses, and the lower wages will also be seen throughout a woman’s entire working career when they see smaller Social Security checks upon retirement.

We all know the solution to the gender pay gap. Why we haven’t addressed the solution properly continues to be a mystery. Let’s hope we can get there sooner rather than later.