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2015, and the 20th year running for Equal Pay Day, a public awareness event designed
to draw attention to the gap in earnings between men and women.
do women still earn about 78 cents on the dollar when compared to men,
according to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau? Is it because women take
time off to raise families, interrupting the promotion path? Are men more
educated? Maybe women choose lower-paying professions. Or maybe they just don’t
know how to ask for more money.
answers to those questions only partially account for the stubborn persistence
of the pay gap, experts say. This year, Equal Pay Day, which was started in
1996 by the National Committee on Pay Equity, is April 14, 2015. The date
symbolizes how many additional days women must work to earn what men earned in
the previous year.
pay, when compared to men’s, grew substantially in the 1980s and 1990s, largely
because women were getting more education, especially advanced and professional
degrees, researchers say, but those gains have stagnated.
things don’t change, it will be another century before women catch up with men
in earnings, predicts Catherine Hill, vice president of research at the
American Association of University Women (AAUW), which tracks gender patterns.
maybe because we’ve gotten the low-hanging fruit [of leveling the education playing
field], and now the next gains are going to be tougher,” Hill said.
78-cent statistic has been called into question by skeptics, who say women often
make less because they ask for more work “flexibility” to balance child-rearing
responsibilities. But AAUW
wage-gap research revealed that women just a year out of college, and childless,
still made just 82 percent of what men that age made.
addition, studies by Catalyst, the
New York-based nonprofit organization focused on expanding opportunities for
business and women, show that the pay gap exists even when the numbers are
controlled for parenthood. Women in highly professional jobs also are not paid
more equally, even at the start of their careers, said Anna Beninger, director
of research at Catalyst.
among these high-potentials who have all graduated from prestigious business
schools and bring the same human capital to the table, there is a gender gap in
level and pay from the very first job,” Beninger said.
jobs do indeed pay more, on average, than female-dominated positions, according
to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). But even within those
fields, men have an advantage. For example, an IWPR report showed in the
male-dominated field of software development, men made an average of $1,737
per week in 2013, compared to $1,370 for women in the same job. Among registered
nurses, women—who dominate the profession—have lower paychecks than male counterparts,
who made an average of $1,236 weekly, compared to $1,036 for women.
doesn’t level the salaries, either. A 2011 Georgetown
University report showed that while education is critical to making higher
wages, men benefited more than women from a college diploma. In fact, a
woman would need to earn a doctoral degree to make the same average salary as a
man with a bachelor’s degree, the report said. Experts agree women can improve
their wage levels by shedding a reluctance to ask for more money—especially in
the first job.
starts when you accept the job. I tell every woman I can to ask for more money
immediately when you accept the job,” said Teresa Taylor, CEO of the
Denver-based consulting firm Blue Valley Advisors. “For whatever reason, we
[women] are not as confident” asking for higher remuneration, she added.
to Kathleen Harris, vice president of content development at Levo League, a professional network for
Millennials, “it’s an emotional fear” that a company will withdraw a job
offer if a woman asks for more money. In a recent Levo survey, 55 percent of
women said they didn’t want to come across as pushy, while 63 percent said they
felt uncomfortable with the whole process of negotiating salary. And even
younger women are affected by the fear: 60 percent of Millennial-generation
women don’t negotiate, Levo research shows.
But in reality, companies “want to
make it work,” and will do what they can to get their preferred job candidate,
managers can help, according to Taylor, by assessing gender patterns in pay and
making managers aware of these patterns.
have had managers come to me and say, ‘We did an analysis, and this is what’s
going on in your department.’ And I had no idea,” Taylor said. “I do think it’s
HR’s responsibility to make managers aware of this, because they’re the ones
with the information. They see it first.”
as simple as identifying job candidates by their initials, instead of by their
full names, can help in achieving fairness in hiring, promotion and pay, Hill
said. In a study exercise in which managers were presented with resumes from
“John” and “Jennifer” for a science-tech job, both women and men preferred the
male candidate and thought he merited a higher salary, she said. Even a public
statement from management underscoring the organization’s commitment to pay
equity can help change the pay dynamic, Hill suggested.
transparency, too, can help bridge the gap, Beninger said. “When people know
salary guidelines and what colleagues make, it becomes much easier to bring
one’s salary in line with colleagues at the same level,” she said.
should also make it clear what it will take for employees to get a promotion or
a raise, she said. “When performance criteria are crystal clear and the path
upward is well established, women will be on equal footing for those important
raises and promotions,” Beninger concluded.
Susan Milligan is a freelance writer based
in Washington, D.C.
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