The gender pay gap is perceived as one of the greatest problems with gender inequality in our society today.
According to new research from pay consultancy Korn Ferry, women in the US. earn 17.6% less than men. Critics of this statistic may argue that the variation of pay isn’t as great when looking at related job levels and duties but therein lies the core issue—any amount that isn’t equal across the board is discriminatory. Maryam Morse, a firm that analyzed 1.3 million employees at 777 companies in the U.S., concluded that the gender wage gap is a result of fewer women holding positions of power than men. These statistics prove that the wage gap isn’t just different numbers on paychecks—a disproportionate slant in the number of male CEO’s means the root of the problem is much deeper and it resides in the number of opportunities presented to women.
Among the many factors that constitute pay imparity, below are 4 major reasons why we are still battling the issue today.
1.) In the U.S., 25 of Fortune 500 CEO’s are women, three women are represented in the Supreme Court, and out of the last eight U.S Secretaries of State, three of them have been women. Last year, 15 of the 146 world leaders were women with eight of them being their country’s first female leader. As far as the world of life sciences is concerned, women are making a noticeable impact here, too. In 2017, women in the United States accounted for 54.4% of biological scientists and 52.1% of medical scientists—and it doesn’t stop there. Chemists and materials scientists make up 38.3%, environmental scientists and geoscientists constitute 35.8%, and all other physical scientists account for almost half, at 47.3%.
As it stands, there aren’t proper structures in place to support women who decide to have children and leave the workforce to do so. PayScale, a data software firm, discovered that employees who leave the workforce for a year or longer, return to work with a 7% decrease in their salary compared to employed individuals seeking the same job. In addition to a potential loss in salary, women who take maternal leave experience a doubled loss in the form of missing out on opportunities to grow skillsets.
Couples who choose to have children should feel reassured knowing their workplace practices policies are family-friendly—not a sense of concern for what their jobs will look like upon returning. Companies hoping to counteract the motherhood penalty should emphasize and discover their own processes to adequately prepare women who leave for this reason and be sensitive to the pull of mothering and how it conflicts with work.
3.) Confidence Gap
When it comes to negotiation during the hiring process, 57% of men negotiate their salary while only 7% of women negotiate theirs. Women aren’t giving themselves enough credit and in return, their confidence for negotiating what they want is diminished. To make matters worse, along with salary negotiations, women then understandably lack confidence in asking for career advancement. It’s a vicious cycle.
Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook and Author of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, discusses several of these issues in depth and how women can take charge of their careers despite living in an age of rampant gender bias. (Although, it should be stated that the onus isn’t just on women to push for equality—we all should). Why? Underqualified men don’t think twice about leaning in and feel that they require only half of the necessary skills to be considered for a promotion. On the other hand, women who are overqualified for a position often hold back. Clearly, a problem that affects women affects the greater good of working America.
4.) Gender Bias
Another big driver for the wage gap stems from deep-rooted gender stereotypes. Today we might call it second generational bias, where attitudes are subtler and often unintentional. In most cases, we expect men to demonstrate leadership traits like being self-assured, assertive, and opinionated; whereas women are expected to be nurturing, empathetic, and passive. Society conditions males to undertake these roles of leadership, leaving women in supporting roles that ultimately drive this disparity in income potential.
So, how do we overcome the wage gap? The solution might seem easy: hire more women in positions of power. Conceptually, this idea is straightforward, but implementation will require time, continued effort, mindfulness, and inclusion. We have a long way to go on the road to equality, but it’s important to keep in mind the progress that has been made so far.
The increasing number of powerful female leaders (regardless of industry) is a trickle compared to the river of change that is needed—and although the progress is small, the cracks in the dam are certainly widening.
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