In 2021, women make only $0.82 for every dollar a man makes, which is one cent more than they made in 2020.
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) reports that at the rate of change between 1960 and 2016, women are expected to reach pay equality with men in 2059.
However, if change continues at the slower rate seen since 2001, women will not reach pay equality until 2119.
There are currently more women in the workforce than men; however, women—especially women of color—are consistently earning less than their male counterparts. What is the reasoning?
One factor driving the gap is the difference in industries or jobs worked.
So-called women’s jobs—health care services, education, child-care, etc.—tend to offer lower pay and lesser benefits whereas so-called men’s jobs—construction, trade jobs, etc.—have higher pay and better benefits.
This trend can be seen at all levels, from frontline workers to experienced leaders.
Women are also expected to compromise their career aspirations in order to take on traditional womanly roles. Families sometimes struggle to have access to childcare, so women are typically expected to take on that role.
When women accommodate caregiving, they are more likely to work part-time, which has lower hourly wages and less benefits compared to full-time workers.
Additionally, when women put their families above their career, they are less likely to be promoted and earn bonuses.
Although gender-based pay discrimination has been illegal since 1963, it still occurs. This is especially prevalent in workplaces that oppose open discussion of wages and where workers fear retaliation.
Some workplaces determine pay based on prior employment; thus, pay discrimination can follow women from job to job.
Many women often encounter the “motherhood penalty,” which entails lower wages because employers wrongfully assume women will be unable to work long hours while being a mother.
Men on the other hand, often receive the “fatherhood bonus,” which involves bonuses and/or higher wages for having a child.
Despite Congress enacting various laws to combat pay discrimination, the gap persists.
Currently two states—Alabama and Mississippi—have no sex-based discrimination regulations; all other states have some form of equal pay protections.
However, roughly one-third of states have major loopholes in those protections that allow for employers to continually pay women less than their male counterparts.
So, what can we do to close the gap?
Women obtaining advanced education degrees have helped close the gap, though in some instances it is not absolute.
Learning how to salary negotiate can be beneficial. Employers are less apt to discriminate if a prospective candidate understands her worthiness as an employee.
Additionally, it is important to encourage open discussion of wages. When employees can openly discuss their earnings, discrimination can no longer hide.
The pay gap is real and affects all women. We must advocate for strong equal pay protections and hold workplaces accountable.
To learn more and spread awareness, visit AAUW’s page on fair advocacy, fightforpaypay.org.