Christmas Bummer: Women Still Make Less Money

I want you to take a good look at your most recent paycheck. Do the numbers look right to you? They shouldn’t. Because it’s very likely you’re missing about 25 percent.

No, it wasn’t an accounting error or a bank blunder. It’s the fact that the gap between your paycheck and your male counterpart’s is not getting smaller. In fact, for those women with four-year college degrees, the gap is actually widening. Sorry to be a Debbie Downer on Christmas Day, but you need to know what’s up. Wah-wah.

According to this Dec. 24 article in the New York Times, the gender pay gap has been stagnating since the mid-1990s, after two decades of improvement. Why? Apparently, the reasons are “complicated” (aren’t they always?), but they boil down to discrimination and women’s choices.

Well-educated women, presumably with high earning potential, are increasingly leaving their jobs to care for their young children. Maybe it’s for the joy of being stay-at-home moms, or maybe it’s because they can’t afford decent daycare. Also, women in high-paying fields such as medicine and law tend to choose lower-paying specialties.

At the same time, employers just plain favor men when it comes to salaries. According to the article:

… the pay gap between men and women who have similar qualifications and work in the same occupation — which economists say is one of the purest measures of gender equality — has barely budged since 1990.

Men really raked in the dough during the late ’90s (compared to women), but in recent years, women have gained a little headway. We haven’t caught up, though. Not by a long shot. We’re still only earning 75 cents on The Man’s dollar. (Check out these helpful graphs for a more visual explanation.)

One economist quoted in the article says there’s no proof that discrimination is the reason: “It is possible that the average man, brought up to view himself the main breadwinner, is more committed to his job than the average woman.” Whatever, lady.

The Times also notes a lack of government efforts to battle sex discrimination in schools and workplaces over the last two decades. When Uncle Sam was pushing for equity in the ’60s and ’70s, women started being paid more fairly. When Uncle Sam gave up and moved on, our salaries started sucking again. Coincidence?

So what do we do about this, fellow working moms–besides get mad? The Times didn’t have any suggestions, unfortunately. Any ideas?

6 thoughts on “Christmas Bummer: Women Still Make Less Money

  1. I saw this article, too, and was actually going to blog about it. Good timing, Susan! I don’t have answers, but I do have a (long-winded) question: For the past year or so, I have been reading articles about how girls are eclipsing boys in elementary school through high school and college. Some of these articles have framed the issue with dismay. “What’s wrong with our boys? Why are the girls doing better?” A couple even suggested … (gasp) discrimination, saying schools should be more sensitive to what I guess is considered the boys’ inability to sit still, listen, and do the required work.

    But here’s where I get confused. Girls supposedly are doing better than boys in school. Yet when girls get out of school and into the workforce, they still make less money than their male counterparts. It makes the less charitable side of me want to tell those “left behind” boys to stop whining. They’re still going to do better than my daughter, no matter how much harder she works.

    I hope that’s not the case. I hope that, by the time our girls have careers of their own, we won’t have to deal with this ridiculous inequality in pay. I hope…

  2. If I were an employer, and I had a man and women with the exact same qualifications, personlity, and I really and truly thought them perfectly equal in all respects, I would pay the man more. The fact is that there is no chance that he’s going to get pregnant and want to take maternity leave. Now, there may be the chance that the man could get cancer or some odd thing, and the woman, would have been the better candidate. But *all things being equal* the man just isn’t going to need as much time off, most likely.

  3. just4ofus says:

    I have encountered this in the nursing field in the past 2 years. Myself and two male RN’s had a job offer for three seperate staff RN postitions. 1 male RN had 2 years more total experience than myself and one male 2 years less. BOTH male RN’s were offered top hourly pay, and me well lets say I was offered a lot less. The positions should have paid differently based only on years of experience. I have excellent yearly reviews, so that could not have been it. What are you to do? I am still there with 9 years of service… where are the male RN’s? Oh yeah, they quit already.
    I have to say that women and men should get equal pay for the work they do based on merit of work. Gender in pay should not be an issue. I think I do have to agree with that quote slightly.. if I were in a corporate world and I had a man and a women applying for a position, I might give it to the man for reasons of the woman leaving for child rearing… based on her age?
    I don’t know?

  4. This is why I really think our society needs to start thinking about working families as opposed to just working moms. I’ve got a post coming up about this, but why should we always assume it will be the woman who will want time off? Men could and should take time off for child rearing, too. And with the way demographics are going, it’s not too much to imagine that more men will need to start asking for time off or more flexible work arrangements in order to care for aging parents. Unless we, as a society, put that burden squarely on women, too.

  5. An employee’s pay/salary should be based on their qualifications, experience, performance, and the number of hours they’re working. That’s about it.

    An employer cannot base payment on the “possibility” that one employee might take a leave of absence or quit. I’m a man who loves his current job but if another company offered me a better job tomorrow I would probably quit my current job in a heartbeat. Does that mean I shouldn’t be paid as much? Does the fact that I “might” quit my job at any moment mean that I should make less than a coworker who has fewer qualifications, less experience, and a lower job performance?


    If you make the argument that women should be paid less than men simply because they “might” leave and cost the employer a valuable employee, then you’re making the argument that ANY employee should be paid less based on the “possibility” of absence from work.

    That means every employer should force new employees to take a comprehensive medical exam before being hired. If you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, or any other medical condition that means you should be paid less than an employee without the condition.

    After all, there is a higher probability that those unhealthy people will not be at work and cost the employer a valuable employee. Besides, why should someone who has to go leave work weekly for kidney dialysis earn as much as someone who is healthy and at work?

  6. Yeah! (to Jay’s comments above) And so what if a woman or man took time off for the birth of a baby… If the employer offered family-friendly benefits, like paid paternity leave then they would more than likely retain that employee for the long-run and avoid high turnover costs.

    A smart employer would want to retain valued employees by offering both men and women fair pay and good benefits.

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