Ridiculous and True: Gender Pay Gap Unchanged for over a Decade

April 03, 2012

Despite recent stories about how women are poised to out-earn men in coming generations, the stark reality is that worldwide, women still make an average of 18 percent less than their male counterparts at work.

Messed up, right?

Despite a narrowing of the wage gap in the United States from the 1960s to the 1990s, no significant progress has been made in closing the global gender pay gap for over a decade. So perhaps my skepticism toward reports celebrating my lucrative future is warranted when, despite women’s remarkable gains in educational achievement, progress toward our equal compensation remains entirely stagnant.

Bleaker still are the adverse effects of childrearing and higher education on women’s wages. AAUW’s report Behind the Pay Gap confirms that among college-educated men and women within the same majors and occupations, a pay gap exists in the first year after graduation and continues to widen over the first 10 years in the workforce — even when controlling for factors known to affect earnings such as education and training, parenthood, and hours worked. The absurdity persists when it comes to having kids, as women with children earn less on average than their childless counterparts, while men with children tend to receive a “child premium,” meaning that they earn more on average than men without children.

Equal Pay Day this year falls on Tuesday, April 17, a date that symbolizes how far into 2012 women must work to earn what men were paid in 2011. But losing three months and 17 days of earnings doesn’t worsen outcomes for women only. The wage gap hurts families, who, as recent stories rightfully report, are increasingly likely to depend on women as their primary breadwinners.

Since our initial research on the issue back in 1913, AAUW has been fighting the good fight for equal pay. It’s clear that we’ve made remarkable gains. Yet as we prepare for Equal Pay Day 2012, generate additional research deciphering who is affected by wage inequality and why, and publish another blog post to debunk false notions about the end of the wage gap as we know it, it is strikingly clear how far we still need to go in our quest to earn equal pay for equal work.

This post was written by AAUW Public Policy Intern Julie Seger.

AAUWguest By:   |   April 03, 2012

1 Comment

  1. Alex Zorach says:

    This is a major matter of concern for me. I think it’s important to start asking some tough questions about why this pay gap has persisted.

    I personally believe that we have overcome more of the most blatant, conscious discrimination, and that there are fairly deep and subtle issues that are holding us back from overcoming this. I think these issues are both due to our culture and the structure of our economic system.

    One thing I think about is that I think our economic system still rewards people who exhibit aggressive behaviors (i.e. people who take credit for the work of others, people willing to exploit others for their personal gain) whereas it does not sufficiently reward people who are more cooperative and generous. Stereotypically, more men have been the aggressive type in the business world, and women less so.

    It’s good for women to become more assertive, but I don’t think it’s reasonable or healthy to expect (or encourage) women to step across the boundary into behavior that is aggressive or exploitative of others. Rather, I think it would be better for society if we could encourage men to stop being aggressive in these ways, and to restructure our economy and our culture so that people were not rewarded (economically or socially) for such behaviors.

    I suspect that if we could achieve these things, the wage gap would shrink further, because I think that the culture and practice of rewarding people economically and socially for aggressive behavior lies at the root of the remaining wage gap. But that’s just my opinion.

Join the Conversation

You must be logged in to post a comment.