In the most recent state of the union, President Obama discussed the fact that there is still a gender pay gap. Women still earn, on average, 77 cents for every dollar men earn. Now, there’s a lot to debate about why there’s a pay gap (women take lower-earning jobs, women don’t negotiate the same way men do, women voluntarily step out of their careers for a period of time to raise their children, etc.) but the fact is, men earn more than women.
What does that mean?
Women are missing out on a collective $500 billion in our lifetimes. Or, to put it another way, the average 25-year-old woman was paid $5,000 less than the average 25-year-old man. By the time those two are 30, she’ll have missed out on $30,000. So, it’s $30,000 easier for a man to afford a down payment by the time he’s 30 than it is for a woman.
What can we do?
As members of the working world, both men and women can do a lot to fix this imbalance. One, women need to stop apologizing for their thoughts, opinions, and beliefs. Two, women need to be less afraid of talking about money. Money should be something as normal to discuss as the need for a new printer in the office. For my male peers, it is. For me? I had four sleepless nights before asking my boss for a raise.
But the one thing that we can do, the one thing that we should do, is to acknowledge that this is a problem.
There are more men in high-paying majors in college, and more women in humanities. But why? Is there some genetic predisposition of women toward the liberal arts? I don’t think so.
I think if we want to be paid more, we should start by teaching the same values to boys and girls. Math isn’t hard for girls. Boys are not inherently better at business-like things.
I know that I’m somewhat responsible for my own pay gap. I value flexibility, autonomy, and collaboration more than I value money. Which has meant that I’m pursuing more creative endeavors and not going the corporate climb-the-ladder route. Small companies pay less and offer fewer benefits than large companies. This is not news.
But if I did climb the corporate ladder, I would want to know that my compensation were equal to my male peers, and study after study shows that’s not the case.
What do you think? Do you think the gender pay gap is still an issue?
Image via Wikimedia Commons