National Public Radio (NPR) recently featured the topic of the ‘gender pay gap’ on one of its news programs, and I happened to be listening in. I was reminded of a conversation I had with my sister about pay inequality between men and women.
The gender pay gap is confusing to me because the Equal Pay Act of 1963 has been around for more than 50 years. Salary differences between men and women may indeed exist for a variety of reasons, but it’s unlawful for an employer to pay men and women different amounts for the same work.
Like many, my sister had accepted the widespread belief that there are biased employers who set out to intentionally pay women less than men. In fact, you can expect this issue to be a hot button on the campaign trail in 2020, as politicians put forth their ideas on how to address the commonly accepted statistic that “women are paid 80 cents on the dollar of what men are paid for the same work.” One candidate was recently called on the carpet about this misused phrase.
Wage gaps can occur because of many variables such as differences in job title, educational experience, job choice, industries, years of experience, and geographic location. According to this report, there can be ‘opportunity gaps’ that keep women from holding high-level, high-paying jobs and advancing in the workplace. I also came across a 2013 study and FAQ by the American Association of University Women, and they had some interesting points on the issue that I’d like to cover more thoroughly in future posts.
Clearly, the topic of gender pay inequalities is much more complex than can be captured in simple blanket statements. Continued study and understanding of salary discrepancies is needed. I believe it’s simply a good idea to stop and think about what we hear and challenge the accuracy of the ‘sound bites’ we commonly accept as fact.
In future articles, we’ll delve further into why there are discrepancies between men’s and women’s pay, including the forces behind opportunity gaps and other contributing factors.