May 19, 2013 | 01:13 AM (BD Time)
19 May, 2013 Sunday
Widening gender wage gap
Evelyn Murphy with E.J. Graff :
Making a real difference on the job isn't easy. But what better legacy to leave to your daughters, nieces,granddaughters, and younger friends than to eliminate the wage gap, once and for all?
How much money are you losing because you're not paid fairly? Most working women today, if they're over thirty, would probably blurt out: No. A man would be getting more.
Their intuitive sense is borne out by the facts. Women working full time-not part time, not on maternity leave, not as consultants-still earn only 77 cents for every full-time male dollar. The wage gap has been stalled for more than a decade. It exists between women and men working at every economic level, from waitresses to corporate lawyers, from nurse's aides to CEOs.
Very few individual women can ever find out exactly what their male counterparts would be making in the same job. But that yawning gap between the average male and average female paycheck is a pretty good clue that he'd be paid more.
What Does the Wage Gap Mean to You?
If you're a woman, what would you do with that extra 23 cents-an increase of nearly one-third on top of your current 77-cent paycheck-a raise that got you even with men? That 23-cent gender wage gap is a personal gap in each woman's life: vacations not taken, or dental work that's put off, or lessons that her children are denied.
Few women think about it this way. Women don't talk about what they should have earned, or how each year's missing lump of money-whether one thousand, ten thousand, or fifty thousand-would have added up over her lifetime. Surely that attitude is personally sensible: no sane person wants to dwell on what she believes she can't have. But we're not going to close the gender wage gap until women realize how much it's costing us and our families. So let's add it up over a lifetime:
If you're a young woman who graduated last summer from high school, you will earn $700,000 less than the young man standing in line with you to get his diploma over your working life.
If you graduated from college, you'll lose $1.2 million compared to the man getting his degree along with you.
If you graduated from law school, medical school, or got an MBA last summer, you'll lose $2 million over your lifetime.
That money represents food you can't buy, credit cards you can't pay off, lessons your children won't have, retirement savings you can't put away.
Of course, your losses aren't subtracted in one lump sum. That money disappears over time, in little nicks to your paycheck. Maybe you were hired for $1,000 less than the young man who took the same entry level job. Or you got a smaller year-end bonus because you and the man working alongside you were awarded bonuses as percentage of salary--and his salary is larger. Or you had to wait longer for a promotion because you had to prove yourself first, while your male colleague was promoted and given a raise based on his potential. Or you were passed over for a project that would have brought in a large bonus, because the boss assumed you had to go home and cook for your family.
Each such loss accrues. Many of us have seen those investment charts that show how much $1,000 invested today would turn into over ten or twenty or thirty years. That's what happens to the money you weren't paid: it doesn't just add up, it multiplies over time.
Why do you and other women lose so much money? Decades ago, women used to hear that it was because women weren't as well-educated as men, hadn't worked as long as men, didn't work as hard as men, or really didn't need the money because they were just working until they got married. That's no longer true. For decades, women have been graduating from college at the same rate as men -and have even surpassed men in recent years. Women work as hard as men. Women are often supporting children, and maybe a disabled or unemployed husband, and need the money just as much as men do. Often, married couples rely on both paychecks. The only demographic difference between male and female workers is a small, and closing, difference in the length of years women have worked in their careers. That cannot account for 23 cents.
Today, many people believe that the wage gap is caused by women who drop out of the workforce to have children. But that can't be true. The gender wage gap is figured by comparing the earnings of all women who work full-time with the earnings of all men who work full-time. If a woman is not working full-time, her wages (or lack thereof) are not included in wage gap calculations. Others believe that women's wages are dragged down by the fact that some women stop working full-time, and then return to work years later at a lower rate of pay. But that idea is wrong, too. Yes, some women do drop out to raise children. But who in America can afford to do that nowadays? Only the highest-educated women-lawyers, doctors, MBAs-who have high-earning husbands can afford to do that. But these women make up fewer than one percent of the 44 million women who are working full time and year round. They make much more than the middle-earning women who pull in $31,000 each year. When the higher-earning women reenter the workforce after raising children, their professional salaries (even if less than they might have been otherwise) probably increase rather than decrease women's average wages.
It's time to stop blaming women for the gender wage gap. It's not our fault. Why do women earn 23 cents less than men? Here's why: Simply because we're women. And that's unfair. It's illegal. It's discrimination.
What kind of discrimination?
Plain old discrimination
Discrimination by sexual harassment
Discrimination by sex segregation
Working while female
Discrimination against mothers
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