The Simple Truth About the Gender Pay Gap

Not Enough Change

Over half a century after pay discrimination became illegal in the United States, a persistent pay gap between men and women continues to hurt our nation’s workers and our national economy.

Women working full time in the U.S. are paid 82 cents to every dollar earned by men — but it doesn’t stop there. The consequences of this gap affect women throughout their lives. Though women now outpace men in higher education, women also hold nearly two-thirds of the outstanding student debt in the United States. And because of the gender pay gap, women have a harder time repaying loans. The pay gap even follows women into retirement: As a result of lower lifetime earnings, they receive less in Social Security and pensions. In terms of overall retirement income, women have only 70% of what men do.

Pay equity will continue to be an AAUW priority until the gap is fully eliminated. We hope this latest edition of The Simple Truth motivates and empowers you to join us in this cause.

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The Pay Gap Through the Years

Because of the gender pay gap women have less money for a rainy day.

A Range of Inequity

The gender pay gap is the result of many factors, including race and ethnicity, disability, access to education and age. As a result, different groups of women experience very different gaps in pay. The gender pay gap is a complex issue that will require robust and inclusive solutions.

Employer practices — such as using prior salary history in setting current pay and prohibiting employees from discussing their wages — compound the problem.

Where you live and what you do can also impact your personal pay gap.

The gender pay gap varies substantially from state to state, due to factors such as:

  • The primary industries in the state and the opportunities they create
  • Demographics such as race/ethnicity, age, and education level
  • Regional differences in attitudes and beliefs about work and gender
  • Differences in the scope and strength of state pay discrimination laws and policies

Explore Your State 


The gender pay gap occurs across almost all occupations and industries:

  • Male-dominated industries tend to have higher wages than industries and occupations made up mostly of female workers;
  • In a comparison of occupations with at least 50,000 men and 50,000 women in 2017, 107 out of 114 had statistically significant gaps in pay that favored men; six occupations had no significant gap; and just one had a gap favoring women.
  • In some occupations, women collectively are receiving billions less than they would with equal pay; for instance, women working as physicians and surgeons are paid $19 billion less annually than if they were paid the same as men in that occupation.

Policy & Legal Action

AAUW believes that pay equity and equal employment opportunity are matters of simple fairness. AAUW is a leader in the fight to end wage discrimination and open doors for women in the workplace. See where we stand on important policy issues, make sure you know your legal rights and how to protect them, and join us in fighting for change by becoming an AAUW Two-Minute Activist.

Take Action

There are lots of ways to get involved with AAUW’s work to advance gender equity. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of women and girls.