While the wage gap has narrowed in pay between men and women, disparity still remains. A statement released by the White House in June, 2011 finds that,
Women earn only 77 cents for every dollar men earn, with women of color at an even greater disadvantage with 64 cents on the dollar for African American women and 56 cents for Hispanic women.
Some people argue that these statistics point to continuing discrimination in the workplace. Others contend that factors such as experience and the careers women choose to pursue are the larger factors that determine the size of the gap. Is discrimination still a reason for the disparity in wages?
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Although one would like to believe otherwise, there appears to be an innate tendency to consider the efforts and talents of women to be inferior to those of men. This is obviously changing, but discrimination has not yet completely disappeared. For many generations, women were considered the fairer sex, not capable of handling the harsh realities of life, and therefore in need of protection. Thomas Jefferson once commented:
The tender breasts of ladies were not formed for political convulsions and the French ladies miscalculate much their own happiness when they wander the true field of their influence into that of politicks. (sic)
Elizabeth Cady Staton and Lucretia Mott, early pioneers of women's rights, travelled to London at their own expense to attend an Anti-Slavery convention; but were denied admission because of their gender. The matter was considered too coarse for their delicate ears.
The point is: the concept of gender inequality has been a part of our culture for so long that it must of necessity die a slow death. Discrimination based on gender is gradually fading; but it has not yet disappeared, nor will it for some time in the future.
Of course, it is impossible to completely know why pay disparity continues to exist. It may be that discrimination is a part of the problem. However, I would argue that the real problem comes from the fact that women are expected to stay home with their kids for at least a little while after the kids are born. This tends to disrupt women's careers. It is not exactly discrimination because the women choose to stay home (to some degree) and because it is legitimate for businesses to prefer people whose careers have not been interrupted. I would argue that the bigger issue is not out and out discrimination but, rather, the impact of societal expectations.
This discussion, and especially pohnpei's post, reminded me of a recent thought-provoking piece in the Atlantic by Anne-Marie Slaughter entitled "Why Women Still Can't Have it All." It got a lot of attention (Slaughter even was a guest on the Colbert Report), but essentially her argument was that professional women, especially women at the very pinnacles of their professions, face two conflicting pressures. On the one hand, they are expected to fulfill traditionally female gender roles in the home, and on the other, they are expected to be willing to give up even attempting to be a mother in order to pursue their careers. As she puts it:
...the decision to step down from a position of power—to value family over professional advancement, even for a time—is directly at odds with the prevailing social pressures on career professionals in the United States.
But these pressures are not as intense for men, who are more likely to have spouses that are willing to sacrifice their own careers for their children. Men are more likely to be praised for spending less time at home for pursuing careers than women.
These statistics are for the United States. This set me wondering whether European European countries, which have more family-friendly policies, providing leave for mothers and often for fathers, too, experienced a similar gap. And it turns out that they do, with an average of a 17% difference, better than the United States, but nevertheless, a substantial percentage. The article referenced below cites reasons much like some of ours, for example, time out for child-bearing. So, it would appear that even in societies in which policy and law acknowledge and provide support for the necessities of the child-bearing years, often with paid leave, there remains an inequity. In the United States, this gap persists into the Social Security years as well, because length of one's work life and one's accumulated earnings provide the basis for calculation. As we see the tide turn on college graduation rates, with females graduating at a higher rate now, it will be interesting to see if this disparity decreases at all.
A lot of economists do argue that one reason in the US for the difference in pay rates between men and women is that women choose different career paths based on their child rearing obligations. While part of the reason why there is a discrepancy in types of jobs men and women have can be due to discrimination in the hiring process, it mostly has to do with choices concerning baring children. While there was a huge increase in women entering the job market after President John F. Kennedy passed the Equal Pay Act in 1963, there has been a decline in progress over the last 20 years and economists say we must consider that the decline in progress is due to women making personal decisions to raise families. There is a fact that women choose different career and educational paths than men. Author Eduardo Porter of the New York Times points out that while women engineers make far more than women teachers, only 18 percent of women become engineers while 79 percent become teachers. Hence, we must consider that one reason for the gap in earnings is due to educational and career choices.
This gender wage gap is not unique to the US. England and Europe in general report the same disparity. England is willing to attribute some of the disparity to the discrimination of gender stereotypes and "the Motherhood Penalty" with the expectation of interrupted careers and divided attention to careers. England has considered implementing mandatory reporting on corporate measures to shrinkthe gender wage gap and quotas for placing women in high wage / high profile positions, like boards of directors. EU member nations have a generally high gender pay gap (GPG) and one factor the EU points out is the correlation between the number of under-educated women in the work force and the GPG: the higher the number of employed women with low education, the higher the GPG number. It seems one positive that can be taken is to increase the number of women educated with multiple degrees in high wage fields like finance, medicine, executive corporate management, law, engineering, maths and sciences. The gender discrimination may start there, at the horizon for educational options.
I would argue that discrimination is just one of many factors involved in the wage gap between men and women. It is true that women are often draw to positions where there is less money. For instance, most teachers are women while most CEOs are men. Of course, this isn't the only reason. We can see many examples of men and women in the exact same job where the woman earns less than the man. I think part of this is continuing discrimination while part is simply the time it takes of overcome past discrimination. Consider that a company wants to pay its employees as little as possible. If a woman was once discriminated against and received a lower pay, it will take time for her salary to match that of a man who was not discriminated against. She will likely receive pay raises in percentage points. These percentages are likely to be the same company wide. A person who makes more money initially will continue to make more because a raise isn't necessarily a flat rate.
Discrimination still exists as evidenced that women still are paid less for the same jobs or positions in the workforce, than men. In the past, women faced overt discrimination, however, the discrimination of today is more covert, less easily combatted, and more insidious.
Of course there have been the arguments that women are paid less because they take off the time to have children or raise a family, however, even when this variable is considered, women make less than men. Men are taking off for family time as well, and the same penalties are not applying in an equal manner.
Our goal is to ensure that women have an equal opportunity to succeed on the job, and that discrimination, much like the gender-based help wanted ads, becomes a thing of the past. http://www.nationalpartnership.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ourwork_wpd_WorkplaceDiscrimination
If you would like to research further, eNotes has some very enlightening information on gender discrimination in regards to reference material. I have embedded a link here for you to peruse further.
I have read from an article that the most high-paying jobs had the largest gender wage gaps. These includes the lawyers, financial managers, HR managers, loan counselors, physicians, surgeons, and securities and commodities sales agents. According to BLS data, the worst field for women was financial services, which paid women 70.5 percent of what they paid men.
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