Tackling the Gender Pay Gap: A Fight for Equality and Fairness
Currently, female employees make 18% less per hour and 36% less per week than their comparable male colleagues, and, astoundingly, in many companies, there is also a bonus pattern that favors men. This is simply not acceptable. Women have the right to be paid equally to their male colleagues. The fact that there is a gap is generally accepted, but the controversy over whether or not the gender wage gap should be eliminated remains.
On the one hand, supporters of closing the gap contend that the gender wage gap discriminates against women and that it causes women and their families to have a lower standard of living. On the other hand, critics argue that women’s choices are the cause of the gap between female and male salaries and that they can prevent it. It is my position that the gender wage gap does exist and that it should be eliminated; it perpetuates discrimination against women and does, in fact, result in a lower standard of living for women and their families.
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Gender Pay Gap: Discrimination in Disguise
One reason the gender pay gap should be closed is because it contributes to the discrimination against women. According to Caryl Rivers and Rosalind Barnett, “female employees were being rated as being less competent, less influential, and less likely to have played a leadership role in work on one task.” Women are entitled to the same treatment as men, and paying them less than men implies that women are not as valuable or as esteemed as their male counterparts. The belief that one employee is less qualified or inferior to another based on gender is, by definition, prejudice. Treating an employee negatively because of that prejudice – with lower wages, for instance – is discrimination.
Double Bias: Women of Color Face Bigger Pay Gaps
Additionally, “women of color face even larger pay gaps.” Women of color face additional prejudice, leading to both gender and racial discrimination. As a result, women of color deal with incomes that are historically lower than white women’s incomes and all male incomes. Moreover, “women are being judged on what they have already done… for promising men, the potential is enough to win the day.”
Judging an employee’s performance, or anticipating an employee’s performance, based on his or her gender is discrimination as well, whether done consciously or not. By judging men on potential instead of performance or by judging women on performance over potential, men are more likely to get a high-paying job, a higher salary, or a raise, which widens the pay gap and facilitates further discrimination against women. Therefore, discrimination and prejudice against women lead to the wage gap, and that same discrimination and prejudice continue to promote the wage gap. This cycle will continue perpetually until the gender wage gap is eliminated.
Additionally, the gender wage gap should be closed because it contributes to a lower standard of living for women and their families. This is clearly demonstrated by the fact that “in the typical household with a mother working outside the home, women contribute nearly 40% of their family’s total earnings.” If a woman contributes 40% or more of the family’s income and she is paid less than her male counterparts by virtue of her sex, then her family’s income is consequently lower than it would be if no wage gap existed.
Thus, their standard of living is less than it would be if she were a man in the same position. Also, studies show that “for women with children over about 11 years of age, the wage gap… is staggeringly more than 30%.” Women with families to support are being punished for both their gender and for having kids. As a result, women’s salaries do not allow them to provide the same standard of living for their families or themselves as they could with a salary equal to men in the same position.
The Lasting Impact: Gender Pay Gap’s Role in Women’s Retirement
Finally, “lower career earnings result in an even greater disparity in retirement income… Women 75 years or older are almost twice as likely as men to live in poverty.” This demonstrates that the effects of the gender wage gap impact women their entire lives. With higher wages over their lifetime, men have the opportunity to save more toward retirement, even if both men and women put the same percentage of their incomes toward retirement. No matter how you put it, the gender pay gap results in a lower standard of living for women and their families that continues into old age.
Debunking Myths: Choices Don’t Justify the Gender Pay Gap
Critics deny that the wage gap should be closed, and they claim that women could have prevented the gap in salaries; however, women’s choices have nothing to do with them being paid less than their male counterparts in the same positions. As stated by Mark Perry and Andrew Biggs, “Women often choose fields of study, such as Scientology, liberal arts or psychology, that pay less in the labor market.” While female-dominated fields do tend to pay less overall, this does not account for the difference in salaries.
Even men in female-dominated roles, such as teaching or nursing, often make more than their female colleagues. Also stated by Perry and Biggs, “The choice of college major is quite free, and many women prefer to stay home with their kids.” Yes, women and men are both free to choose their majors and yes, some women do prefer to stay home with their children; however, while such choices may contribute to a single individual making less over a lifetime, it does not disprove that there is a pre-existing wage gap between men and women in the same fields with the same education.
The gender wage gap favoring men exists in all jobs, no matter what field of work or time taken off by either party. Furthermore, “child care often takes mothers out of the labor market, so when they return, they have less work experience.” Child care does sometimes take women out of the labor market, as is also sometimes the case for men. The key difference is that women working in a given position before childbirth are already being paid less than their male counterparts, so when they return to the workforce, there is an even larger pay gap to cover. Meanwhile, for men returning to the workforce, the wage gap is only based on the loss of work experience and not experience and gender discrimination. Ultimately, what women choose to do versus what men choose to do has no real impact on the gap in salaries between comparable male and female employees.
Addressing Critics: Why the Gender Pay Gap is More Than Just Choices
When speaking against closing the gender wage gap, critics argue that the gap should not be eradicated because women’s choices are what cause the gap, not discrimination. However, the gender wage gap should be eradicated because it contributes to discrimination against women and punishes women and their families by lowering their standard of living. Although the wage gap may seem trivial, it is, in fact, crucial to equal rights and women’s rights. Denying women equal pay for equal work denies them the ability to fully provide for families, and it is a violation of one of the basic tenets of our nation, that all men — and women — are created equal.
- World Economic Forum. (2020). The Global Gender Gap Report.
- Institute for Women’s Policy Research. (2019). The Gender Wage Gap by Race/Ethnicity.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2020). Women in the labor force.
- Perry, M. J., & Biggs, A. G. (2015). The gender wage gap: Fact or fiction? The American Enterprise Institute.
- U.S. Census Bureau. (2019). Income and Poverty in the United States.
- U.S. Department of Labor. (2017). Women’s Bureau.