Gender Pay Gap in the Workplace
Written on behalf of Alexis McKenna
March 27, 2018
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has identified significant power disparities in a workplace as one of the risk factors for harassment and discrimination. Despite federal and state laws enacted to protect workers from this very issue, the problem still exists. Over the course of more than a half-century, these laws have helped make it more likely that women receive equal pay for equal work, however women still tend to be paid less than men. Based on median annual earnings, a woman working full time, year-round typically earns only 80 cents for every dollar earned by her male counterpart. This difference in earnings is known as the gender pay gap.
The gender pay gap is much larger amongst African-American and Hispanic female workers.
Hispanic women make 54 cents for every dollar a white man earned while African-American women earn 63 cents for every dollar. Asian female workers make more than Hispanic and African-American women but not more compared to a white, non-Hispanic man by making 85 cents for every dollar.
Even in female dominated careers, women make less than their male counterparts in executive positions. With a professional degree, women only make 67 cents to every dollar a man makes according to the National Partnership for Women and Families. As women entered the workforce they tended to take on jobs men didn’t want, like working in factories, farms, or as domestic servants. Women were also put to work in jobs that required them to nurture and serve others like nursing, teaching, child care, and waitressing. Low-paid, female-dominated jobs tend to be the ones that demand more emotional labor. People who do more emotional labor are said to be less satisfied with their jobs, experience more emotional exhaustion and burnout, and are more likely to consider job changes.
Many women believe that if they work in female-dominated jobs, they are putting themselves in the position to make more money than their male counterparts, but most of the time that’s not the case. For example, a recent study by the JAMA Network found that men who work in nursing, a job that is female-dominated, make an average of about $5,100 more than female nurses annually, and men make more than women in other female-dominated fields such as education and social services as well. A study by the National Women’s Law Center revealed that women who serve as counselors, teachers assistants, food preparation and serving workers, including fast food, and sewing machine operators typically make more money than men.
As long as women are making a fraction of what men are making in whatever industry they decide to work in, they’re always going to be in the less powerful position. Unless something changes, the gender pay gap will not close for many years to come. Strengthening anti-discrimination laws and modernizing outdated workplace policies to reflect 21st century realities would help women to reach their full economic potential and could shrink the gender pay gap.