Unraveling the Complex Roots of the Gender Pay Gap in Modern Society
In the 1920s, women earned the right to vote. In the 1960s, women entered the workforce. In the 1970s, women had Roe vs. Wade passed. It’s 2017, and yet women still don’t get paid the same amount as men. The gender wage gap is a blatant act of sexism in which women get paid 80 cents to a man’s dollar. So why is it that work done by women is still valued less in modern-day society?
The Gender Pay Gap: Misconceptions and the Slow Road to Parity
Although a lot of people believe that in the modern world, striving for equality and justice, the gender pay gap is closing fast, in fact, the real state of things is quite the opposite. The discrepancy is as wide as it has ever been. It has been estimated that in the United States, there is no chance for women to close the gap earlier than 50 years, which is more than one generation away from today. The prognosis is even worse on a global scale: The UN reported that the world will need no less than 70 years to achieve gender equality in wages.
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It is evident that the process of closing the gap is not a fast one, as there are a lot of factors that hinder it. Furthermore, the rate of progress in this direction has slowed down significantly over the last decade: In the 80s, the gap closed by more than 8 percent, in the 90s by approximately 5 percent, whereas in the period from 2005 up till now, the situation improved by only 1.5 percent. It is commonly believed that the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act has contributed a lot to the solution of the wage gap problem, and many even think that no other measures are required. Indeed, the act introduced in 2009 stated that inequitable payments are unlawful, no matter what previously accepted practices led to this inequality.
The Underlying Biases: When Negotiating Wages Backfires for Women
Nevertheless, it is still not a rare case that women cannot discuss their wages with managers or colleagues for a number of reasons. According to a recent survey, more than 60 percent of women who work in privately owned companies feel discouraged from engaging in such discussions since they are afraid that some negative consequences might follow as a penalty. The situation is better in the public sector: It accounts for the fact that the pay gap is much smaller here.
Yet, it has been found out that male employers are not willing to hire a woman who can freely negotiate her wages since men see such women as too demanding and assertive. That is the major reason a lot of women do not feel free to discuss such issues with their bosses.
The complexity of the issue is aggravated by the number of factors determining a successful outcome. The problem is that not only businesses but also the government and the general public play a significant role in changing the centuries-old perception. Despite technological and educational progress, it is still typical for many people to believe that it is normal for a woman to earn less than a man. Globally, women earn $100 for every $150 paid to men, and this correlation is usually seen as adequate by representatives of both genders.
The Academic Origin: Gender Biases in Education and Early Career
The inequality in payment is much deeper rooted than it may seem to be, as it often starts as early as in the university or school. Female undergraduates are much less likely to have a chance to opt for an area of study that could offer high earning potential in the future, which means that they have a disadvantageous position at the very beginning of their career.
Men are preferred in many scientific, business, economic, and political areas since many educators are certain that they have the right mindset for these activities, although there is no evidence supporting this idea. Moreover, men are much more likely to have a mentor or take leadership positions in various student organizations as it is supposed that they can better deal with a high level of responsibility.
The Motherhood Penalty: Pregnancy, Parenthood, and Payment
When women graduate from the university and start to look for a job, it becomes evident that they will have to deal with prejudiced attitudes and perceptions of gender roles. A lot of employers still think that female candidates cannot outperform men in academic areas, and even more think that they do not possess some important personal skills (such as punctuality, responsibility, leadership, etc.). There is also a common delusion that women will inevitably want family and children.
This means that investment in their labor will not pay back. It has been estimated that women’s salaries are decreased by no less than five percent for every child that they decide to have. Furthermore, women who continue working while they are pregnant are considered to be less committed to their job, less concentrated, and more emotionally unstable and prone to stress. These factors have led to the appearance of the so-called motherhood penalty phenomenon, which consists of discrimination and limitations put on working mothers.
Besides suffering from a distorted perception during their pregnancy, women often have problems going back to work when they want to. It is often the case that they have to leave their workplaces as it is not socially acceptable for a father to do so in order to take care of his children. This step is expected from mothers, who have to sacrifice their career opportunities for the sake of their families. Within ten years of graduation, more than 20 percent of working women are forced to leave their positions as compared to only 1 percent of men. Out of this number, more than a third cannot return to their workplaces when they send children to kindergartens. In the United States, mothers’ position is also complicated by the fact that they are not paid any maternity leave.
Parenting and the Gender Pay Gap: Mothers’ Challenges vs. Fathers’ Benefits
While mothers are paid nothing and are usually substituted for new employees in their jobs, fathers receive 11 percent more than those male workers who do not have children. This benefit also refers to employment: A company is much more likely to employ a man with a family and children and is very unlikely to prefer a married woman with children to a single one. Even if some employers do so, they usually offer lower wages and no career opportunities whatsoever. Despite all these discriminatory factors, app. Seventy percent of mothers opt for being a part of the labor force.
The difference in annual salaries of men and women is now huge indeed: It amounts to up to 25 percent per every dollar, even in cases when they occupy one and the same position. Women from different minority groups suffer from even a wider gap in payments as there is a common belief that their education is worse and they are sure to have a lot of children.
Career Choices & Myths of the Gender Pay Gap
Those who think that there is no real discrimination in this aspect usually argue that women simply choose careers that are not so well-paid as compared to those chosen by men. In fact, pay discrepancies also exist within one field of activity when men and women have the same education and working experience. A lot of women would be eager to work in business spheres that offer huge profits; however, they are not typically accepted in male-dominated areas of practice. Computer programming, financial management, and law are very demonstrative examples of fields in which women are not welcome, even if their potential is high.
Although these changes are desirable, they can only be made possible if they are supported by governments, businesses, and educational institutions. In order to make sure that the mission of closing the gender pay gap is successful, the following steps are required:
- Governments have to ensure that all working mothers receive maternity payments. What is even more important is to protect their rights when they want to go back to work and take the position that they held before pregnancy. Practices of gender discrimination must be outlawed. It is also essential that the government should make high-speed internet access available for every citizen of the country. Although this service may seem insignificant, it would give a lot of women a perfect opportunity to work as many of them can do only a remote job.
- Businesses should show more initiative in attracting women and create an environment that would make them loyal to the company and stay there. Job satisfaction is a crucial factor that is not observed enough when it concerns women, who often need flexible schedules if they have small children. Furthermore, company owners must ensure that applicants are interviewed and tested without any prejudice on a gender basis. Women deserve equal chances with men, even if they try to enter a field typically dominated by men.
- Educational institutions should inform women about their course choices, specifically their impact on future wages and promotions. They must develop programs that would be appealing to women and motivate them to build careers in such prospective fields as technology, politics, management, finance, and legislation.
Taken together, these career boosters can improve the situation considerably. However, we must not forget about the impact of our own attitude to the problem. In many cases, it is not business or political leaders that are to blame but people’s perception of what is right and wrong. There is nothing bad in sticking to traditions, but in some areas of knowledge and activity, we must move forward, leaving old ideas behind.
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