Why do women get paid less?

Last year, Governor Mark Dayton signed into law the Women’s Economic Security Act, with the intention of reducing the gender pay gap. Among other things, it requires businesses in the state to certify they provide equal pay to men and women in the same job categories, and protects the jobs of pregnant women on parental leave. Yet while WESA represents significant strides to attaining equal pay in Minnesota, the nation as a whole falls behind, and some say there is more work to be done.

Lenora Lapidus is the women’s rights project director for the American Civil Liberties Union. She writes to MPR:

In 1963 President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act (EPA). At that time, women made, on average, 59 cents for every dollar earned by men. In the fifty-two years since the EPA was passed, the gap has closed by only 19 cents. Today, for every dollar earned by white non-Hispanic men, the average for all women is only 78 cents, for African American women is 64 cents, and for Latinas is 55 cents.

Several factors contribute to the wage gap:

  1. Unequal pay for the same job: Women are paid less than men in nearly every occupation. In a study of 265 major occupations, men’s median salary exceeded women’s in all but one. Economists have documented gender bias in employment decisions through studies showing that women were offered fewer jobs and lower pay than men, even when they had identical resumes.
  2. Job segregation: Sex role stereotypes lead to women being segregated into female-dominated jobs such as retail sales, home health care, and child care. Women remain under-represented in higher paying work traditionally done by men, such as construction, fire-fighting and policing. Currently, two thirds of minimum wage workers and two thirds of workers in tipped occupations are women. And the minimum wage is too low. Nine of the ten states with the largest wage gaps use the federal minimum wage of $7.25.
  3. Retaliation against workers for discussing their pay: A majority of employees are either prohibited or actively discouraged from discussing their pay. Employers with policies preventing employees from sharing pay information keep women in the dark about pay differences, limiting their ability to negotiate for higher pay and to enforce their rights under equal pay laws.
  4. Pay reductions due to pregnancy and caregiving responsibilities: Employers pay women less than men and deny them promotions based on the stereotype that women will have children and then will commit less time and dedication to their jobs. If women do get pregnant or take on caregiving responsibilities, they often lose income because of overt discrimination based on these stereotypes. They also lose pay when they are deprived of opportunities to advance to higher paid jobs or are pushed out of work altogether because employers do not accommodate needs that may arise as a result of pregnancy or caregiving.

There are some clear solutions. The Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill pending in Congress, would give employees legal tools to close the wage gap. The bill would require employers to demonstrate that disparities in pay between men and women result from factors other than sex. It would also prohibit retaliation against employees who inquire about employers’ wage practices or disclose their own pay to colleagues. And the Act would deter discrimination by strengthening the penalties for equal pay violations.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, another bill pending in Congress, would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with limitations caused by pregnancy, just as they provide reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities.  In addition, bills providing for paid family leave and paid sick leave would reduce penalties on workers – both women and men – with family obligations. And raising the minimum wage would increase the salaries of low-income women.

These bills at the federal level – and counterparts at the state level – would go a long way to closing the gender wage gap. Efforts should be taken to enact them swiftly and redress this persistent inequality.

Today’s Question: Why do women get paid less?

  • AndyBriebart

    If women get paid less than a man for doing the same job they why would all those evil greedy capitalists hire men?

  • Yanotha Twangai

    Another factor is that men are more likely to be overpaid than women are.

    • What’s your proof?

      • Yanotha Twangai

        Proof? Besides personal observation, it sort of follows from a point you made in your screed: men are more likely to demand higher wages, while women are more likely to avoid those uncomfortable conversations.

        • I agree. You’re right about salaried jobs in general.

  • A long response is needed:

    No doubt most pay-equity advocates think employers are greedy profiteers who’d hire only illegal immigrants for their lower labor cost if they could get away with it. Or who’d move their business to a cheap-labor country to save money. Or replace old workers with young ones for the same reason. So why do these same advocates think employers would NOT hire only women if, as they say, employers DO get away with paying females at a lower rate than males for the same work?

    Many of America’s most sophisticated women choose to earn less than their male counterparts:

    “In 2011, 22% of male physicians and 44% of female physicians worked less than full time, up from 7% of men and 29% of women from Cejka’s 2005 survey.” ama-assn.org/amednews/2012/03/26/bil10326.htm

    “Female Docs See Fewer Patients, Earn $55,000 Less Than Men” http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2014/04/22/Female-Docs-See-Fewer-Patients-Earn-55000-Less-Men

    “…[O]nly 35 percent of women who have earned MBAs after getting a bachelor’s degree from a top school are working full time.” It “is not surprising that women are not showing up more often in corporations’ top ranks.” http://malemattersusa.wordpress.com/2014/04/25/why-women-are-leaving-the-workforce-in-record-numbers/

    “A study of students graduating from Carnegie Mellon found that 57% of males negotiated for a higher starting salary than had been offered, compared to just 7% of females. As a result, starting salaries of men were 7.6% (almost $4,000) higher than those of women.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/maximilian-martinez/important-considerations–in-assessing-the-gender-wage-gap-in-medicine_b_6566762.html

    A thousand laws won’t close such gaps.

    In fact, not one of the following measures has achieved anything substanial over the last half century:

    -The 1963 Equal Pay for Equal Work Act

    -Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act

    -The 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act

    -Affirmative action (which has benefited mostly white women, the group most vocal about the wage gap – tinyurl.com/74cooen)

    -The 1991 amendments to Title VII

    -The 1991 Glass Ceiling Commission created by the Civil Rights Act

    -The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act

    -The Age Discrimination in Employment Act

    -The Americans with Disability Act (Title I)

    -Workplace diversity

    -The countless state and local laws and regulations

    -The thousands of company mentors for women

    -The horde of overseers at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

    -TV’s and movies’ last three decades of casting women as thoroughly integrated into the world of work (even in the macho world of spying, James Bond’s boss is a woman)

    -The National Labor Relations Act

    -The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

    These measures have failed because women’s pay-equity advocates, who always insist one more law is needed, continue to overlook the female AND male behavior that is influenced by marriage or the anticipation of it:

    Despite the 40-year-old demand for women’s equal pay, millions of wives still choose to have no pay at all. In fact, according to Dr. Scott Haltzman, author of “The Secrets of Happily Married Women,” stay-at-home wives, including the childless who represent an estimated 10 percent, constitute a growing niche. “In the past few years,” he says in a CNN report at tinyurl.com/6reowj, “many women who are well educated and trained for career tracks have decided instead to stay at home.” (See also “More Women are Quitting the Workforce,” Oct. 3, ’14, http://www.marketwatch.com/story/more-women-are-quitting-the-workforce-2014-10-03 If indeed a higher percentage of women is staying home, perhaps it’s because feminists have told women for years that female workers are paid less than men in the same jobs — so why bother working if they’re going to be penalized and humiliated for being a woman, as illustrated by such titles as this: “Gender wage gap sees women spend 7 weeks working for nothing” http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/cwgbaueysnsn/rss2/.)

    As full-time mothers or homemakers, stay-at-home wives earn zero. How can they afford to do this while in many cases living in luxury? Answer: Because they’re supported by their husband, an “employer” who pays them to stay at home. (Far more wives are supported by a spouse than are husbands.)

    The implication of this is probably obvious to most 12-year-olds but seems incomprehensible to, or is wrongly dismissed as irrelevant by, feminists and the liberal media: If millions of wives are able to accept NO wages, millions of other wives, whose husbands’ incomes vary, are more often able than husbands to:

    -accept low wages

    -refuse overtime and promotions

    -choose jobs based on interest first, wages second — the reverse of what men tend to do (The leading job for American women as of 2010 is — has been for over 40 years — secretary or administrative assistant. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/11/gender-wage-gap_n_3424084.html)

    -take more unpaid days off

    -avoid uncomfortable wage-bargaining (tinyurl.com/3a5nlay)

    -work fewer hours on average than men (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/atus.nr0.htm), or work less than full-time more often than their male counterparts (as in the above example regarding physicians)

    -fewer women than men have interest in being the boss http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/12/11/on-pay-gap-millennial-women-near-parity-for-now/

    Any one of these job choices lowers women’s median pay relative to men’s. And when a wife makes one of the choices, her husband often must take up the slack, thereby increasing HIS pay — as he decreases his freedom.

    Women who make these choices are generally able to do so because they are supported — or, if unmarried, anticipate being supported — by a husband who feels pressured to earn more than if he’d chosen never to marry. (Married men earn more than single men, but even many men who shun marriage, unlike their female counterparts, feel their self worth is tied to their net worth.) This is how MEN help create the wage gap: as a group they tend more than women to pass up jobs that interest them for ones that pay well.

    “Salary Secrecy — Discrimination Against Women?” http://malemattersusa.wordpress.com/2014/10/27/salary-secrecy-discrimination-against-women/

    “The Doctrinaire Institute for Women’s Policy Research: A Comprehensive Look at Gender Equality” http://www.malemattersusa.wordpress.com/2012/02/16/the-doctrinaire-institute-for-womens-policy-research/

  • MarthaRN

    This topic is just another false argument promoted by the Progressive Left in part to nudge people to be “saved”_ by the Unions. Take teachers for example_ regardless of who gets results or works the hardest to get those results, they all get the same salary. Now they want Q Comp in MN, a program that had to be authorized by the Gov to most schools. Teachers set up a so called improvement plan of which half of the plan is simply sitting at coffee clutch meetings every month. As long as a peer rates their buddy as doing fine, they get an extra $2,000.00 tacked onto their salary. It is a joke but it looks good on paper. It is funny that the government accountability office shows Hillary has paid her women support staff less than the men…ouch!!!

    • MarthaRN

      Yes, I have experienced the Q Comp joke as a teacher.

  • Hunter

    Natural reasons for any disparity in pay has been well known for decades but who is pushing the “income inequality” movement and for what gains? yes sir_ another tactic to gain support for the progressives for Hillary. Lokk kids, this is no different than the constant cover ups and scandals when the left are worried. Here’s a new example how the left play that card.
    A source told Jack Murphy of SOFREP that the FBI instantly
    believed the shooting at San Bernadino, which left 14 dead, to be a clear act of
    terrorism. The White House, however, didn’t feel the same way and
    quickly moved in to squash the terror classification.

    This source added that as soon as the shooting took place, Obama
    convened a meeting with the National Security Council and the heads of
    other federal enforcement agencies to discuss a public relations
    strategy to down play the terrorist cause because_ he just told us all that terrorist i.e., the Islamists traditonalists jihadists were NOT a threat to Americans within our homeland.

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