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Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

There Really Is a Gender Pay Gap -- and It's Worse Than You Think


Despite the fact that a woman is highly likely to get the presidential nomination for the Democratic party, a gender pay gap still exists. Several recent articles in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times reveal just how widespread and serious is the problem.

Women's median annual earnings is hovering about 21 percent below that of men’s, the New York Times reported. That statistic comes from a new study from Cornell University. Researchers at Cornell analyzed data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, which has collected data from U.S. households since 1968, and the U.S. Current Population Survey, which focuses on full-time wage and salaried workers 25 to 64 years old.

The Los Angeles Times article cited research from a new study by Glassdoor, which keeps a database of anonymous reviews of companies by employees. The study examined gender pay gaps in five countries: the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, France and the U.S. It found a gender pay gap in all five countries, and in the U.S. it found that men earn 24.1 percent more in base pay than women on average. Researchers found the largest pay gap among male and female computer programmers, with men making 28.3 percent more than women on average.

The gender pay gap becomes even more disturbing when you consider that women are “almost half of the work force,” as the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) stated. Women are the breadwinners in 4 out of 10 families, and receive more college and graduate degrees than men. Yet, women on average “earn less than men in virtually every single occupation for which there is sufficient earnings data for both men and women to calculate an earnings ratio,” as the IWPR found. The group also found “outright discrimination in pay, hiring or promotions” in the workplace. If change in the gender pay gap continues at its current “slow pace” as it has for the last 50 years, it will take until 2059 (44 years) until women reach pay parity, according to the IWPR.

Last year, a White House report on the gender pay gap and pointed out some interesting facts. The pay gap is more than just wages: It also includes workers’ full compensation packages. Women are less likely overall to have retirement savings plans. However, the gap is concentrated among lower-income women, as women with college degrees are as likely as men to be covered by their employer’s pension plans. But the gap widens when you look at accumulating retirement savings. “Even among those with a retirement account, women tend to have lower balances than men, which is partially driven by the pay gap,” the White House found.

The gender pay gap tends to widen with more education, according to the White House report: The pay gap between men and women with professional degrees is a startling 67 cents. Women are also underrepresented in the three industries that have the highest average wages: information services, mining and logging, and utilities. However, women make up more than half of the employees in the three industries with the lowest average wages: leisure and hospitality, retail trade, and other services.

But there is a bit of good news when it comes to the gender pay gap. Recently, Amazon announced its commitment to gender pay equity, and as a result a shareholder resolution filed by Arjuna Capital and Baldwin Brothers Inc., and co-filed by Pax World Management, will be withdrawn. Amazon also announced it is on track to achieve gender pay equity. Arjuna Capital filed shareholder resolutions at six other technology companies asking them to commit to gender pay equity.

Amazon is not the only company to commit to gender pay equity. Earlier this year, Intel and Apple made similar commitments. The Gap, Salesforce.com and GoDaddy are transparent and accountable regarding their commitment to gender pay equity. But those are only a handful of companies. The majority of American companies have not made commitments to closing the gender pay gap. If they did, perhaps gender pay equity could be achieved in the near future.

Image credit: ING Group

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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