Exploring Wage Disparity Among Men and Women in America

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As of 2014, women working full time jobs make 77% of what men do; as in, 77 cents to every white man’s dollar. This 23-cent gap is an excellent feat compared to the wage gap in 1967, when women made only 58% of what white men made, and 1980, when women made 64%of what white men made. But, it is the 21st century and women are still lagging behind in wages. This wage gap has been stagnant since 2002, and it has brought up many questions of why and how a “gap” still exists. Many are quick to say that it’s purely sexism, but is that all there is to it? The Breakdown The wage gap can be explained by many factors, some that people might not even consider. 60% of the wage gap can be explained by factors such as work experience (10.5%) or occupation choice (27.4%). Other factors include race, industry, and union status.  Here is a breakdown of the gender wage gap from the Center for American Progress: Wage Gap 1 Along with these factors, statistics also show that 42% of women reduce their work hours to raise their children, while 39% of women take significant time off from work to do the same. 27%of women quit work entirely and devote themselves to being “stay-at-home moms.” In comparison, only 24% of men admit to taking significant time off from work to raise their children. Kerri Sleeman, a childless, married woman working full time at a design firm in Michigan, felt the effects of the wage gap when her company went into bankruptcy and she found that people who had been below her had been making more money than her. When she first took the job, Sleeman was told that salaries were non-negotiable. After learning of the pay disparity within her company, Sleeman was told that because many of the men below her were the sole breadwinners for their families, they received a larger salary. Forget being paid equally for equal work, she was in a higher position and still got shortchanged. Nonetheless, another interesting statistic: 72% of American women and 61% of American men agree that wage equality in the workforce is necessary. (What a concept, right?) The fact that more than half of both American men and women are in agreement that a change must occur in the wage aspect of the workforce begs the question, “Why hasn’t anything changed yet?” And still, that question goes unanswered. The following image is a breakdown of the wage gap by state. It was made by taking the mean average of salaries for men and women working full time, year-round by state. The most egregious offense is in Wyoming, where women make 64 cents on every white man’s dollar. In comparison, Vermont and Nevada have the smallest wage gap, which is 85 cents to every white man’s dollar.

Wage Gap 2

Source: Forbes.com

In areas with major cities, such as New York (84 cents), California (84 cents), Florida (84 cents), and Nevada (85 cents), the wage gap is much less offensive than in more rural states, such as Louisiana (67 cents), Idaho (75 cents), and Alabama (71 cents).

Wait a second…every white man? Yes, you have been reading this article correctly. With nearly every statistic found, wages were compared to the earnings of a white man. As of the most current United States Census, African-American men make 73% of what white men do, an even more serious offense than the gender wage gap itself. Hispanic men make only 63% of what white men make.  Meanwhile, Hispanic women make 53% of what white men make, and African-American women make 64% of what white men make. Not only is the United States facing a serious gender wage gap, but it is also facing a racial wage gap. However, when breaking down the racial wage gap by gender, it is found that minority women’s earnings within their race are actually higher than white women’s earnings within their race. The following graph is a complete breakdown by percentage of women’s earnings compared to men’s within their race as well as compared to white men.

Source: American Association of Undergraduate Women

Source: American Association of Undergraduate Women

So does sexism actually play a role? According to research from the PEW research center, only 15% of young women, ages 18-32, find that they have been discriminated against in the workplace because of their gender. Also included in this research is the fact that about half of millennial women (51%) and their older counterparts (55%) find that this is a “man’s world,” not a woman’s or even an equal world. This idea further contributes to the gender gap because it affects women’s hopes on how high they can go in their career or if they can even maintain their job at all. 59% of millennial women find that being a parent makes it harder to advance in their field, while only 19% of men feel the same way. Take Sekiko Garrison, for example, a former sales representative for Michael Bloomberg. Upon announcing her pregnancy to him in 1995, he simply told her to “kill it,” angered by the fact that so many women in his company had taken maternity leave. This was 1995. 18 years later in 2013, Bobbi Bockoras, a palletizer operator at a glass company in Pennsylvania, was harassed for pumping breast milk in the workplace—a right that she, and all other women in the workplace, has under the Affordable Care Act of 2010. The law requires companies to accommodate nursing mothers on the job. Instead, her company forced her to use a locker room covered in dirt and bugs to pump breast milk while her colleagues banged on the doors teasing her. Evidently, being a mother in the workplace is highly difficult. PEW also found that 34% of women are not even interested in becoming a boss or top manager of a company. Why would they be, when they hear stories such as that of Jill Abramson, a Harvard graduate and the ex-executive editor of The New York Times. She was fired recently, the reason being that she was “pushy” and “hard to work with.” According to many sources, such as Forbes, in the weeks leading up to her removal, Abramson found out that her pay and pension benefits were less than that of her predecessor, Bill Keller. She also attempted to hire an editor without the approval of Dean Baquet, the former managing editor of The New York Times and the man who took Abramson’s spot as the executive editor of the paper. These situations are also reported to have been factors in Abramson’s removal. How is this affecting us? The gender wage gap and the racial wage gap have both hit American society hard. In particular, the gender wage gap is hurting single mothers. In 2012, married couples with children reported a median income of $81,455, whereas female-headed families with children reported a median income of $25,493. As of 2013, American men reported an average salary of $45,188; single females reported an average salary of $37,076. As of the latest Unites States Census (2012), poverty rates for black, Hispanic, and Native American women were three times higher than for white, non-Hispanic men. More than four in ten female-headed families were impoverished, with more than half of all U.S. children living in poverty being part of a female-headed family. The following graph displays the poverty rate amongst adults in 2012 as a percentage of the entire American population. Wage Gap 4 The wage gap is also affecting senior citizens in the United States. As of 2012, more than twice as many women aged 65 and over were living in poverty compared to men aged 65 and over. The life expectancy at birth for women is 79.4 years and the life expectancy for men is 73.9 years, which means that women, on average, have to stretch their income further. One out of every six older women is also a member of a minority group, and we already know how that one plays out.

How Do We Fix the Problem? It is evident that the wage gap is not just “sexism.” There is a wide range of factors—from education to industry to race—yet stories of sexism cloud headlines everyday. While much has been done to create equality in the workforce, there is still a lot that can be done to ensure that the issue disappears for good. The Equal Rights Amendment is one of the steps being taken by Congress to fix this issue. This amendment states that, “the equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States of America or any of its states.” The only issue with this? It was written in 1923 by Alice Paul and has yet to be ratified. The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 , inspired by one of the few female supervisors at Goodyear, Lily Ledbetter, is meant to restore protection against pay discrimination that was lost in the Supreme Court case Ledbetter V. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. Ledbetter was sexually harassed, and informed by an anonymous letter that three of her male co-workers received higher salaries than she did. The court ruled that because a decision on her pay had been made 4-5 years prior to her filing a complaint, she would not receive equal pay and that employees cannot challenge pay discrimination if the decision was made more than 180 days earlier. State-exclusive Fair Pay Acts are hard to pass in the Senate, and it is increasingly difficult to move forward because of this, but that has not stopped women’s rights activists and other groups from fighting for equal pay for equal work. There is clearly a wage gap in America. Will this generation be the one to finally end it?


Glynn, Sarah J. “The Top 10 Facts About the Wage Gap.”AmericanProgress.org. Center for American Progress, 16 Apr. 2012. Web. <http://americanprogress.org/issues/labor/news/2012/04/16/11391/the-top-10-facts-about-the-wage-gap/>.

Glynn, Sarah J., and Jane Farrell. “What Causes the Gender Wage Gap?”AmericanProgress.org. Center for American Progress, 09 Apr. 2013. Web. <http://americanprogress.org/issues/labor/news/2013/04/09/59658/what-causes-the-gender-wage-gap/>.

“Bankruptcy Court Revealed “Heartbreaking” Pay Inequity.” AAUW.org. American Association of University Women, 09 May 2013. Web. <http://www.aauw.org/2013/05/09/heartbreaking-pay-inequity/>.

“On Pay Gap, Millennial Women Near Parity – For Now.”PewSocialTrends.org. Pew Research Centers, 11 Dec. 2013. Web. <http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/12/11/on-pay-gap-millennial-women-near-parity-for-now/>.

Cohler-Esses, Larry. “Mike Settled ‘Abuse’ Case: Bloomberg Paid Woman over Pregnancy Remark.” New York Daily News, 27 Mar. 2001. Web. <http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/news/mike-settled-abuse-case-bloomberg-paid-woman-pregnancy-remark-article-1.898094>.

Wittmeyer, Matt. “Pumped Up: Breastfeeding Mothers Fight for Rights at Work.” NBC News, 10 Jan. 2014. Web. <http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2014/01/10/22257760-pumped-up-breastfeeding-mothers-fight-for-rights-at-work?lite>.

Bercovici, Jeff. “NY Times Replaces Jill Abramson As Editor After Only Three Years.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 14 May 2014. Web. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffbercovici/2014/05/14/ny-times-replaces-jill-abramson-as-editor-after-only-three-years/>.

“Older Women.” Aoa.gov. Administration on Aging, 11 Apr. 2013. Web. <http://www.aoa.gov/naic/may2000/factsheets/olderwomen.html>.

“The ERA: A Brief Introduction.” EqualRightsAmendment.org. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://www.equalrightsamendment.org/overview.htm>.

“Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.” NWLC.org. National Women’s Law Center, 29 Jan. 2013. Web. <http://www.nwlc.org/resource/lilly-ledbetter-fair-pay-act-0>.
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