You will spot this number all over your Google search results after typing in some sort of combination of “wage” and “gap”.
This figure is commonly misquoted as the additional amount the average woman must make each year to catch up to what the average man makes each year.
Nearly a quarter on the dollar.
This figure, if true, should raise the blood pressure of every person fighting for equal pay. However, just because a number is easy to quote in debates, does not make it accurate.
There is a gap.
It’s just much smaller.
When comparing a defined full-time career woman to a defined full-time career man just starting a job fresh out of college, this number is more accurately quoted in the 5-7 cent range on the dollar.
Why the gap at all? Don’t women have higher educational levels than men now?
Women have actually closed the once much larger wage gap due to higher educational achievements over the last 16 years. According to the “Five Facts About the Gender Pay Gap”, since the 1990s, women have taken the lead in receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees. Higher education has accounted for a 1/3 close on the wage gap that existed previously.
One factor that explains the immediate gap following the tassel turn, is that men are still dominating some of the fields our culture deems worthy of higher pay: engineering and chemistry positions are largely being filled by males. Women are starting to enter these workforces as well, but the estrogen ratio is still fairly small, while women dominate teaching and nursing positions in contrast.
But what about the man and woman who start in the same career? Over time, that 5-7 cent range begins to widen to 10-12 cents down the line.
Why the increase in gap with time?
Men are more likely to be upfront and expectant of raises, promotions and growth. Most women are not as demanding in the workplace and prefer to allow work to speak for itself. High level of work ethic and achievement should be automatically awarded with a pay raise. However, the squeaky wheel gets the grease—er pay increase. Well-positioned conversations and unwavering confidence in work is key to gaining advancement that otherwise might go to someone else who speaks up.
But, this doesn’t explain why the number 23 is still prevalently used as a legitimate statistic in political debates, office lunch rooms and phone conversations.
This number compares ALL women to ALL men.
There are several other gaps that contribute to this wage gap seeming so large and unbalanced.
The majority of single parent households are headed up by women: eighty-three percent. Single mothers often are forced to choose between a 401k plan and flexible work hours, and deal with the “motherhood penalty” even coming back after maternity leave due to child-first mentality over corporate ladder climbing. With a significantly smaller population of single fathers, more men are free from the responsibility of diaper bags and fold-up strollers to pursue a full-fledged career, resulting in financial freedom.
Also, part-time is not weighted in the wage gap. A single mother working part-time is not weighted in a separate category for the wage comparison. Her income is stripped of circumstance and added as another number.
Anyone who watches House Hunters knows that location is key. In the workforce, location does nothing to shrink the wage gap for women when it comes to rural areas.
According to The American Association of University Women,jobs for females living in rural states such as Wyoming, Louisiana and West Virginia dominated by blue collar industries and more commonly considered male-oriented jobs are few and far between. Most jobs associated to be “male-jobs” such as construction, financial management, and firefighting are paid much higher than the female-dominated industries of teaching, administrative work, and nursing.
So, is YOUR pay stub smaller than your male counterparts?
Perhaps not to your cubicle neighbor or office mate. But in large, women are still struggling to close the gap of 5-7 cents when comparing child-free career woman to child-free career man. The single mother is being forced to opt for part-time and schedule flexibility, and the world still deems the jobs women are choosing overall to be worthy of a smaller check than the jobs more men are choosing to work.
The wage gap is there. It will take more than more education. It will take rethinking what jobs are necessary to this world and how to value them, it will take pivotal conversations and confidence in a job well-done, it will require either more sensitivity to working mothers, or their male counterparts taking responsibility and helping close the daddy gap to share in parenting.