Why does the male-female wage gap persist?

Although the numbers vary from one industry to another, women overall still earn about 80 cents for every dollar men earn. Today’s Question: Why does the male-female wage gap persist?

  • Clark

    Does this compare similar occupations, education, experience or is it another feminist skewed analysis that compares a cashier with a physician? I also assume when females take significant time off from work to raise children, it puts their careers on hold which includes wages and promotions. I would belive there would be a similar impact to males, if they also took time off to raise a family.

  • Belinda

    Well, Clark, you might want to follow the link to the study and find out for yourself…

  • Mike

    The referenced report clearly states “the figures are grouped by industry, not occupation”. It also states that only full-time positions were considered.

    Which makes ‘Today’s Question’ title a little misleading. Perhaps something like “Why is there a male-female occupation difference?” would make a more responsible article title.

    Wage difference analysis by industry has less to do with fairness and more to do with occupation availability, choice, and interest.

    That said, does having and raising children affect the occupation choices of women today? What domain of jobs works well with this life choice?

    A true male-female wage comparison would look at occupation and consider hours logged in that occupation.

  • Lori
  • Mike

    A great link Lori. It sites a lot of analysis done over the last 2 decades.

    Several of the recent studies account some or most of the wage gap to well defined non-discrimination factors like choice, fringe benefits, etc. The remaining gap is officially referred to as unexplained with the understanding that a portion of that must be discrimination.

    Near the end of the page – “In 2010, Time magazine reported on a study which showed the existence of a “reverse gender gap,” where women outearned men. In 147 of the 150 the biggest cities in the U.S., the median full-time salaries of childless women under 30 was 8% higher than that of men.”

  • James

    Clearly there has been much research done and this problaby isn’t an opinion question, so I won’t state my opinion, just my observations from about 25 years of work.

    Negotiation Skills: Men negotiate pay harder than women. They ask for raises more often and job hunt more aggressively if not pleased with their pay.

    Hours of Work: There seem to be more men who are willing to “go on the road” frequently and burn the midnight oil when asked. In many cases it is because they have supportive spouses at home.

    Child Care: While there are lots of men who take child care seriously, it still seems that there are more women than men who need very strict hours of work to deal with childcare issues, and more women than men who will take the appropriate few weeks/months/years off to raise children. This choice slows career progress and creates a bit of “promotion bias.” Additionally, there are many more women who are losing lots of productive hours at work, dealing with their children via the internet and cell phones. That lost productivity come back to haunt them at review time.

    These are the 3 that I see. They may not explain the whole difference, but they contribute.

  • Alison

    \\Wage difference analysis by industry has less to do with fairness and more to do with occupation availability, choice, and interest.

    Good point, MIke. But how did those jobs that women tend to choose end up being considered less important, and thus compensated at a lower level. I would contend that the historical male/female distributions in the careers was a big factor in the fact that I doubled my salary when I changed jobs. I left teaching, traditionally “womens’ work”, and became a scientist with no addtional training or education. There are plenty of careers that are still lower paid because they were considered “womens’ work”. We have decades of history to contend with.

    Even within my current profession, I have still seen evidence of a pay gap. Women tend to not be as strong in advocating for higher starting salaries and raises. If you don’t ask for it they probably aren’t going to give it to you.

  • Alison

    Good point about child care, James. But there is also a perception difference about taking time off for something like a sick kid. When a woman does takes that day off the thinking tends to be, “See, I knew she couldn’t devote the time to a career once she had kids.” When a man takes that day off for the sick kid he’s considered a wonderfully devoted father. I have actually heard these sorts of comments in the office.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Maybe it’s not that women are underpaid, but that men are overpaid. The factors cited in comments so far can be interpreted another way: men tend to be more egotistical, and therefore more likely to be fussy and demanding about things like pay; men are more likely to prioritize their careers ahead of their families than women are; and women are more likely to be content with enough than to greedily demand more.

  • GregX

    Bad statistical analysis I’d say. position to position the pay is the same. the better question is … why are women discouraged or dis-interested in certain well paid careers – within those industries. I think you’ll find that some jobs like in heavy labor – especially in specialized trades/skills – steam fitting, welding, plumbing, machining, …. all still have a pretty heavily MENSROOM culture. As individuals – they are capable of working with women, but the group dynamic is the old-school macho-bonehead in which women are something you have at home for recreation – not a coworker of absolute mutual respect and trust.

    Other areas – in the White collar world have the problem as well, from scientific field work to, to boardroom “favoritism”. It just that the macho bonehead behavior in those areas is couched in a more sublte and coded set of rules. Look at your favorite media movies-shows – women are pure “candy” on the outside – thin, beautiful, witty and hot for men. While some of the men handsome – the majority are sludgy, slow, dullards … that the babes all love.

    and we wonder ?

  • Jim G

    Two current issues illustrate what I believe is a cause for this persistent wage gap.

    1.In our immediate neighbor to the east Wisconsin Governor Walker’s attack on the teacher unions is a blatant attack on women’s earnings. The majority of the teaching workforce is women, so it follows that Walker’s law to restrict union bargaining rights should be seen as they truly are: an attack on women’s ability to achieve a fair wage for their labor.

    2. In Minnesota legislation freezing the current minimum wage for restaurant servers and counting tips as wages is in HF1755. Restaurant servers are overwhelmingly women. Again, this law would take tips from hard working women servers to pad the profits of multi-million dollar corporations. This bill is mislabeled as the “Main Street Restaurant Wage.” In today’s front page news we have waitress, Stacy Knutson, a server in Moorhead, Minnesota who was given a $12,000 tip. If this bill becomes law this tip would have counted against her wages. She would not have benefited from this miracle gift, but her employer would have.

    These laws and legislation are a direct attack on women’s wage earning potential. They are an attack on all mothers, sisters, and daughters. Republican legislators voted for these laws and legislation. Why does the male-female wage gap persist? Because there is a war on women being waged by Republicans and their deep pocketed business interests: they are fighting and bankrolling this war against women.

  • Karen

    Why does the male-female wage gap persist?

    Because our social-cultural evolution was stunted by the criminalization of the world’s most utilitarian plant. Legalize Cannabis/hemp for every good purpose and to be grown by any good person and this nonsense of male-female issues will be laughingly dismissed.

  • Mary

    I worked in a position typically held by men for many years and had more experience, education, productivity, etc. than my peers. I was paid less and had to approach the HR department before a change was made: Even then I was chastised and all the men were also given raises so it wouldn’t appear the company “gave in” to a woman’s demands for equal pay. The reason: Men control these decisions and the Good Old Boys network prevails.

  • EAL

    It may come to a suprise to those who worship at the alter that men and women the same, there are differnces in how women apporach carrers as opposed to men. It is tragic that many women buy off into the notion, “You can have it all!” Choices are made and if one chooses to raise a family, the role for women is different than for men because the biology is different. Ask, is it fair for two employees, a man and a woman, to be given the same salary adjustment when the woman may have taken three months off for maternity leave? Is that not discrimination against the male who was on the job. When it comes to negotiating salaries, Linda Babcock’ book, “Women Don’t Ask,” shows that men tend to negotiate for higher saleries and women tend to accept what is presented to them. The real tragedy resides in organizations that are pushing for goverment to step in and determine what salaries should be based upon beaucrats administrative recommendations.

  • Terry

    “Maybe it’s not that women are underpaid, but that men are overpaid. The factors cited in comments so far can be interpreted another way: men tend to be more egotistical, and therefore more likely to be fussy and demanding about things like pay; men are more likely to prioritize their careers ahead of their families than women are; and women are more likely to be content with enough than to greedily demand more.” – Posted by Steve the Cynic

    How true. How more likely is it an entheogenically deprived man made up an artificial value for something he did where the more entheogenically endowed woman saw a need and gave to it from her heartmind?

  • JasonB

    Just as I was thinking of posting my thoughts, I heard Kerri Miller quote the title of Babcock and Laschevers’ book, “Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation”. That was my thought. Is a major factor in this gap due to a lack of negotiating skills?

  • Steve the Cynic

    Why do men tend to be more ambitious than women? Womb envy. It goes back to childhood, to the moment when the most important person in a little boy’s life, his mother, tells him, “Sorry, honey, but boys can’t grow up to be mommies. Only girls can.” Unless he gets some validation for who he is, he compensates by denigrating girls and women (i.e., sour grapes), and devoting his life to achieving things he can tell himself are more awesome even than giving birth, but in the back of his mind he knows he’s self-deluded, and so it’s never enough. (A truly ironic example of this is Sigmund Freud, who identified the concept of psychological projection but didn’t realize he was doing precisely that when he asserted that women could be afflicted with “penis envy.”)

  • Philip

    @Karen – I was waiting for it! Yee haw, the daily cannabis comment!

  • Ann

    Men don’t seem to be interested in the low level office jobs that I have had. Most of the workers were women. A large number of the women didn’t seem to be very interested in having a “career.” A lot of them wanted to help out with the family finances or be able to treat the kids and grandkids. They wanted to help pay for the boats and lake cabins. Others were there to get medical insurance for their self-employed husbands. It was important for them to have 9 to 5 jobs so that they could be with the kids. I know that there are also a lot of career women who view their work in a different way. The statistics don’t show everything.

  • Loretta

    Bcause of actions like this A Wisconsin law that made it easier for victims of wage discrimination to have their day in court was repealed on Thursday, after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) quietly signed the bill.


  • Jack

    Wresslin’! That’s what this kind of ‘news’ is to me. In Wresslin’ you get two ugly guys to talk mean to each other, throw some stuff around and pretty soon you’ve got an audience.

    So much of journalism is really nothing more than Wresslin’.

    So with that in mind, this so called gap — according to whom? Sounds to me like a political agenda rather than research.

    MPR: avoid these kinds of silly tactics and focus on real problems. Otherwise you’re no better than the mainstream media.

  • Wally

    Yes, there are a few unfair places, but for the most part, it’s equal pay for equal work. So QUIT WHINING!

    But wages will be higher for the work requiring more strength, and the tasks with more physical risk–and that’s mostly men doing those jobs. When a woman wants to climb out on a 12/12 pitch roof with me, I’ll pay her the same as I’d pay a man. Trouble is, there aren’t too many men that want to do that, either.

  • Jessica E

    Interesting comments, especially Wally. Over half of the children born this year will be to single women. If a man were willing to gain tons of weight causing him to be scarred and disfigured afterward; carry an average of 3000lbs of pressure on his lower back; risk death from hypertension to bleeding out; give birth to two nine pounders and two ten pounders with no drugs; sleep for a half hour every two hours for three-5 months; carry/sooth a screaming baby from 3-6pm per day for 3 months; go without showering, talking to friends, earning an income, continuing education, sitting through a sermon, going to the toilet alone, etc.; carry a ten to thirty pound wiggly baby around while cooking and cleaning; and then continuing to nurture the baby for 18 years afterward, resulting in the continuation of our societal values, societal benefits and profits, I WOULD pay him! Why is it that the “hardest job in the world” earns $0.00?

  • Jessica E

    Trouble is, Wally, more than half of us can’t even find a man to stick around long enough to even bring us a drink of water while we’re doing all this work, much less provide health insurance, a roof, food, support, a father figure. Tsk tsk!

  • Jessica E

    In answer to the question: Perhaps the gap persists because most of the work women do is done for free to begin with, so why pay us when we move beyond barefoot and pregnant? We should be happy enough for the opportunity to get out of slavery and move into indentured servitude.

  • Steve the Cynic

    “Quit whining!” is the rallying cry of those who benefit from the injustice others suffer from, Wally. Besides, if it’s true that part of the wage gap is partly due to men being pushier and driving harder bargains than women, one could say that whining is effective. Why should men get to benefit from whining but not women?

  • EAL

    Jessica, just remember, many women, not all, cry for choice. Women do not need to have children, they choose to have children. Further, raising children is not a job, it is a blessing. Tragically, you have not or do not recognize the gift.

  • I think the biggest reason there is a pay gap is due to the fields that women get into versus men. There are just very few women in the math and science fields. At my work place we have about 30 male engineers and only 3 female engineers (we just hired a woman intern). Also, many women take extra time off to spend the first few years of the lives of their children and choose to part time instead of full time when their children are younger. Combine all those things and the pay gap makes sense…it’s due to the choices in career, lifestyle and education. In the end if women are happier with their more time off, less math/science intensive jobs and the ability to have more family time who am I to judge them…it isn’t all about money is it?

  • Alison

    \\There are just very few women in the math and science fields.

    Why should our society value math and science teachers dramatically less than we do mathmeticians and scientists? Why do we compensate entire fields that are traditionally womens’ work less?

  • J

    The wage gap does not include the free labor women give when they choose to be housewives or take a few years off to raise children. It is one-to-one number of years of experience for a particular job comparing a woman working that job to a man working the same job. Yet there still a wage gap!

    Women are not financially treated with the same respect as men even if their qualifications are the same! That is what the wage gap says about our society. It helps to actually read how the study was performed. Understand the context of the study before guessing/justifying to yourself what makes the numbers off and forcing an appearance of equality when the point of the study was to truly see if there is equality.

  • Alison – [Why should our society value math and science teachers dramatically less than we do mathmeticians and scientists? Why do we compensate entire fields that are traditionally womens’ work less?] *** First of all, the math and science teachers are more often than not men…at the high level math and sciences men teach at even higher rates (every single math and science teacher I had in high school was a man…that’s 4 math and 4 science classes all taught by men). Generally we compensate work based on the value to society, the scarcity of the skills and the number of people actually willing to do the work. I’m sorry to tell you this but there are just simply more women willing to work with children for less money than there are people of any gender willing to do math, science and engineering jobs. It comes down to simple economics, the tougher jobs/harder skills to learn are valued at higher rates…it’s not about right or wrong it’s about scarcity and people willing to do the job. I think we do need to change things and that starts with women standing up and actually going into math and science fields; men and women should never look down on a girl/woman who is interested in those fields and the last thing I ever want to hear from any person but especially a girl or a woman is “math is hard” or “I just can’t do math”. It’s that kind of self defeating attitude that people in general (but especially women/girls) have that prevents them from learning math and science before they even attempt to learn those subjects.

  • georges

    “Why is it that the “hardest job in the world” earns $0.00?”

    Because it would cost more than the Gross National Product to pay all the men what they deserve for putting up with, on a daily basis, the irrational self-centered ravings of the females they are harnessed to.

  • Steve the Cynic

    I assume, georges, that you posted that outrageous comment fully expectating that it would draw an indignant rebuke. Consider it given.

  • georges

    One may be as indignant at the Laws of Human Nature as one chooses. Human behavior will remain the same, totally unaffected by the frequent head banging on brick wall. Attaining a state of imagined discordance in order to feel better about ones irrational feelings-based beliefs keeps one in constant agony, and blocks all avenues to wisdom. Come out into the light. Tis good for the soul.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Wow, georges! Are you saying you actually believe that crap?

  • Wilma

    Ignorance, plain and simple.