By Martha Burk
The pay gap between working women and men is one of the highest ranking concerns for women. It’s increasingly a priority for men—because when one earner in a family brings in less than she should, the family suffers overall.
Though “equal pay for equal work” has been the law since 1963, disparities in pay for full-time, year-round work are not lessening substantially, and cannot be expected to go away naturally, as some conservatives claim (after all, it’s already been 57 years).
Earnings for women of color continue to be lower than those for white women, who earn 79 percent of men’s wages overall.
- Asian American women make 90 percent.
- African American women come in at 62 percent of men’s earnings.
- For Native American women the percentage is 57 cents.
- Latinas are at the bottom with only 54 percent.
- Moms overall make 69 percent.
The COVID-19 pandemic will have a lasting effect on the pay gap, since more women have been forced to drop out of the workforce. According to a study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a woman who takes off for a single year will likely never catch up, earning less for up to 15 years after she returns to the workforce.
Some Causes of the Pay Gap
- Job segregation. Women are segregated into lower paying clerical and service jobs, males dominate higher paying blue collar, management and technical jobs.
- Devaluation. “Women’s jobs” are still seen by society as less valuable than “men’s jobs,” though requiring the same level of expertise (e.g. social worker vs. parole officer).
- The pay gap itself. If someone must take off work to take care of a child or elderly parent in a two–earner family, economics compels the lower earner (woman) to do it. Single parents (overwhelmingly female) may be forced onto public assistance. Both will fall behind, damaging opportunities for advancement and higher pay.
There have been many studies of the gender pay gap. Even in job titles dominated by women such as teaching and nursing, men in those fields make more. When motherhood and other factors such as age, education and experience are accounted for statistically, there is still a pay gap.
Experts agree: Sex discrimination is the only logical explanation.