Why Women Earn Less Than Men – A Woman’s Perspective

The following post is from Holly of Club Thrifty. The article was originally suppose to be posted on a corporate blog I’m managing, but it was deemed too risqué so I’ve decided to publish it here. It’s always good to hear a woman’s perspective on this touchy subject. Never let good words go to waste I say! 

Experts use the term “gender wage gap” to describe the ongoing disparity between men and women’s average annual earnings. According to recent government data, women earned just 80.9 percent of what men brought home in 2012. That’s certainly disappointing, but what’s more disconcerting is the fact that it may actually be getting worse. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, women earned approximately 82 percent what men did in 2011- just one year before.

Several other studies claim that the gender wage gap rests at various percentages, although most studies tend to agree that women of color and women older than 35 often earn the least. These statistics become even more troubling when you consider the fact that women were the sole or primary earner in 40 percent of households in the U.S. in 2011.  The gender wage gap also appears to be somewhat elastic, with varying levels of intensity from industry to industry:

ECON NEW

*Economist, 2012

But, are salaries really impacted that that much by gender alone? While a quick glance at the statistics might lead us to believe that the gender wage gap is caused entirely by gender discrimination and crotchety old women-hating bosses, many believe there is much more to the story than the raw data can possibly portray.

Let me give you an example, “Real Housewives” style.

The Housewives of Affluent Suburbia

My neighborhood is home to many women whose own lifestyle choices might affect their earnings today and in the future. To set the stage, the median household income in our town was $88,429 in 2012. While that might not sound like a lot, a nearly six-figure income can go a long way in the rural Midwest. (To keep things in perspective, the median family income in San Francisco- one of the most expensive places to live in the country- was $87,329 the same year).

Our neighbors include judges, doctors, lawyers, corporate executives, and scientists. There are also an unbelievable number of stay-at-home moms. And, on any given day, you can find them pushing adorable custom baby strollers down the tree-lined garden pathways, meeting friends for hot yoga class or coffee, and bouncing around in workout clothes that cost as much as I spend on groceries in a week.

But these women aren’t frumpy slackers or underachievers. Like their husbands, many of the women I’ve befriended hold an advanced degree. In fact, within a few miles radius, I can name two attorneys, one engineer, and a handful of former business executives who chose to stay home with their kids. Several of the women volunteer and I know one who works part-time. The rest of them appear to do what they want for the most part, and a few saunter over to the neighborhood pool like that is their full-time job.

One new friend recently told me that she doesn’t plan to practice law ever again, even after her youngest goes to kindergarten next year.

“I don’t want to start over at the bottom of the pack,” she said. “I lost my career momentum when I chose to stay home.”

Another friend has an MBA, yet only works at a school part-time.  “I want to be available for the kids,” she said.  “I also refuse to work summers.”

Several others tell me that they’ll probably go back to work once their kids leave the nest. And of course, there’s nothing wrong with that. Staying home to raise your kids is admirable and I can truly believe that parenthood is the hardest job on Earth.

But, what happens when women like my neighbors do choose to go back to work? In the words of my friend, will they truly be forced to start over at “the bottom of the pack” in terms of pay and seniority?

Of course they will.

Why Women Earn Less Than Men

On the other hand, plenty of research shows that the gender wage gap is real, even when accounting for the lifestyle and family choices of women. For example, “Graduating to a Pay Gap: The Earnings of Women and Men One Year after College Graduation,” revealed that one year after college graduation, women were paid an average of 82 percent of what their male counterparts brought in. And, even after accounting for lifestyle choices such as college major, occupation, GPA, type of undergraduate institution, marital status, and age, a 7 percent difference in wages between newly-employed men and women still went unexplained.

The American Association of University Women, who conducted the research, goes further to report a 12 percent unexplained difference in wages between male and female workers only ten years after college graduation. Other various studies seem to back up the AAUW claims that the entire gender wage gap cannot be attributed solely to the lifestyle choices of women. But, looking at the research, it appears that one factor may be playing a bigger role than once thought: Parenthood.

The Motherhood Penalty

Additional AAUW research shows that, ten years after becoming a parent, 23 percent of mothers were entirely out of the workforce and another 17 percent worked only part-time. Meanwhile, only 1 percent of men had stopped working and 2 percent worked only-part time. But why?

Apparently, women who do return to the workforce after raising children may not be greeted with open arms. The AAUW cites an unspoken “motherhood penalty” as the cause of such grief since research shows employers are less likely to hire a mother compared to a childless woman. And if they do, the salary they offer is often lower.

However, there is no such “fatherhood penalty” to speak of when it comes to hiring patterns of men with children. In fact, a growing body of research indicates that men with children actually earn more when compared to their childless male counterparts. Go figure.

Solving the Gender Wage Gap

It’s easy to see how opting out of the workforce for years or even decades could affect one’s earning potential, but it’s important to understand that it doesn’t have to be this way. All kinds of experts have weighed in on how women can fight against the powers that be and close the gender wage gap once and for all. Here’s what they’ve said:

  • Advice #1: Warren Farrell, the author of “Why Men Earn More: The Startling Truth Behind the Pay Gap — and What Women Can Do About It,” believes that, overall, men earn more because of the career decisions they make. When it comes to advice for women who want to close the gender wage gap, he suggests working longer hours, earning a degree in a male-dominated field such as math, science, or engineering, not dropping out of the workforce to have children, and taking commission-based work.
  • Advice #2: Amy Caiazza, director of democracy and society programs at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research., claims that women need to take matters into their own hands. “What’s needed is mentoring to make connections and training to learn new skill sets and move to higher jobs,” Caiazza says. “Women can get more education and be assertive and confident in negotiating pay.”
  • Advice #3: Heidi Hartmann, Economist and the president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, believes that, among other moves, women should pressure the government into promoting policies that end gender discrimination and ensure equal pay. For example, we should support policies like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which makes it easier for women to sue their employers if they feel they’ve been unfairly discriminated against.

The bottom line is this: Women obviously have a lot of work to do when it comes to advocating and insisting on a system that ensures equal pay for equal work. Research shows that lifestyle choices and parenthood do play a factor in women’s earnings. However, it also proves that women’s earnings, even when accounting for those things, aren’t always where they should be. Yes, men and women are different and often want different things, but that shouldn’t be used as an excuse to pay women less for the same job.

So, talk about the gender wage gap with your friends, learn how to negotiate for a better deal, and vote for political candidates that support policies that might one day close the unfair wage gap once and for all. Perhaps if we all speak loud enough, the message will be heard loud and clear by those who seek to stifle our earnings and keep us down.

What is the best solution to the gender wage gap? (choose up to two)

View Results

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Readers, do you believe some women actually deserve to be paid less than men? What is your solution to the gender wage gap? When will it ever close? Is my idea of introducing equal parental leave not a great idea?

BTW, if you are not getting any e-mails as a e-mail subscriber, please check your spam folder. I changed servers the other week, and it seems like it stirred the sand a little. 

Sources:

  • “Breadwinner Moms,” Pew Social Trends, 2013
  • “Closing The Gender Wage Gap Would Create ‘Huge’ Economic Stimulus, Economists Say,” The Huffington Post, October 24, 2012
  • “Graduating to a Pay Gap: The Earnings of Women and Men One Year after College Graduation,” American Association of University Women, October 24, 2012
  • “President Obama’s persistent ’77-cent’ claim on the wage gap gets a new Pinocchio rating,” The Washington Post, April 9, 2014
  • “The Gender Pay Gap Got Worse, Not Better, In 2012–And It’s Great For Women,” Forbes, February 13, 2014
  • “The Simple Truth About the Gender Wage Gap,” American Association of University Women, 2014
  • “Want a pay rise? Then you’d better become a father as study reveals men with children earn a FIFTH more,” The Daily Mail, Dec 23, 2012

 

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

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Comments

  1. says

    I was only able to vote for one thing (not two as stated). I think men have to be part of the solution. They don’t seem to feel that strongly about it, otherwise it wouldn’t exist. Men are in the positions in management to be able to do something about it, but yet it persists.

      • SP says

        1) Offer the same amount of pay you would to anyone with the same qualifications, education, and experience–regardless of gender. Be on alert for any subconscious biases that would influence you to offer less for weak reasons.

        2) If no one offers to help, and persists on perpetuating a disadvantage, then the only real solution is to accept sub-par conditions, get into positions of power, and then fix the damn problem by being fair and equal ourselves. But that’ll breed even more resentment.

      • says

        Thanks SP, I was thinking along the same lines.

        Women are usually under represented in management and so are in less of a capacity to influence in a big way, and if they do try to spear head something, they are seen as self serving and biased.

        This is why the correction of the problem needs to be initiated by men who can identify it and point out the anomalies.

        I’m trying to think of some analogies that would illustrate what I mean:
        - women in the clergy – until men spoke out and were supportive it was difficult to gain acceptance.
        - stay at home Dad’s – mother’s being supportive and not emasculating men make this a gender acceptable thing to do
        - environmentally conscious companies, spending money to clean up their own ecological issues and beyond at the risk of lowering profits says that there are some causes more important for the greater good than corporate performance exclusively

        I’m sure some women in senior management are not even aware of what their male counterparts are earning but can hazard a guess. If they do not have an unbiased support from their peers, then they risk trying to go it alone (or as a minority) and being hung out to dry on the proverbial branch.

  2. says

    The article that states a 7% difference between men and women one year post-graduation is likely due to women not negotiating. In my experience within the sciences, the pays aren’t all that different (not 82%) but in my small survey of friends it’s closer to ~5%… guess who had the lower salaries? My female friends who just accepted the offer flat out. That 5% compounds over time if you have COL raises, etc. There’s a lot to said for asking for another $2k or so.

    • says

      Small changes do really compound to big bucks over time. I’ve witnessed time and time again how one of my deal female friends isn’t willing to negotiate a deal or a salary despite my encouragement for her to do so. She is happy with what she makes at work, until that one year she got passed over for a raise and a promotion and became super bitter and angry for 6 months.

      Good work is not good enough in the work place. We must constantly be selling ourselves to the right people. A manager’s job is to motivate and pay people as little as possible so they don’t leave.

      If you never ask, you make the manager very happy.

    • Anna says

      This sounds so simple, but in practice, it’s not.
      There’s research that demonstrates that women face penalties for negotiating that men don’t face (or to a lesser extent.) Women likely pick up on this and act accordingly. If men implicitly knew they’d be penalized for negotiating salary, don’t you think they’d be more cautious too?

      • says

        I realize that is an overly simplistic view of the situation (and am well-aware of the studies). In fact I have been in many situations where things that my male coworkers do, don’t viewed negatively on them, but when I do the same thing it is “bitchy”. It’s the assertive vs. bitchy distinction between men and women.

  3. says

    One nice concept in Belgium is that both parent get 4 months of parental leave that you can take the way you like (until the child is 11). For example 1 day off per week for 3 years or 1 day off per week for 10 month, then working half time for 4 month. It’s quite flexible and it makes it much more likely for father to be actively involved in taking care of kids.
    All my colleagues are picking kids from school, bringing to activities or staying with them at home on Wednesday (when school is just in the morning, which has the side effect that we strongly avoid conf call on Wednesday because of loud background :))

    It still doesn’t change the fact that only women can give birth (and they get 15 weeks off for that plus protection against being fired & co while the father only get 10 days paternity leave)

    So I think the key to equality is a nice system of incentive for fathers to be actively involved in child education plus a robust/cheap system of daycare. So that company don’t see any difference in terms of “child risk” if they hire a man or woman.

  4. says

    Note: I think a few things in my post below can be misconstrued to be dismissive of the pay gap. That’s not my intention.

    A couple things stood out to me in this post. First and foremost, I think the chart overemphasizes the pay gap. Looking at CEOs and Financial Mgrs (the two bottom), I think we can safely conclude that the data for those roles just isn’t even, especially for CEOs.

    That leads me to my next point – Advice piece #1 states that men make the career oriented decisions. I recently moved to a brand new city where I know very few people. My fiance is in grad school getting her doctorate but I still chose to move out of driving distance. We were a 3 hour drive apart, now we’re a 1.5 hour flight so the dollars is the issue. She completely understood because she knows I’m going to do what it takes to get ahead.

    Furthermore, in banking, the women in my office (for the most part) don’t work the longer hours! If I’m here until 9, they leave at 8. That gets noticed! You want to be noticed for being willing to put in the long hours, not the person who sneaks out “early.” Now, please don’t misconstrue that as an across the board statement as it’s just a singular data point. Advice Point #2 says women need to hustle more essentially. Networking meetings, in my experience, are somewhat of a boys club! Get out there, ladies. Shake hands, introduce yourself. Make that connection!

    Jay

    • mike says

      Working until 9 is pure insanity unless you are in a profession that involves saving lives or national security, or, maybe, if your day started at 1. For that matter, so is working until 8. I say this as someone who has worked a 28 hour day in the name of national security. Chill the fuck out, corporate America.

  5. says

    I don’t think government regulation is the answer here. I don’t think you can enact a law that reduces pay or increases pay across the board, there are too many variables. Like you mention some of it is the women’s fault.

    My suggestion is for women to become entrepreneurs and create their own business where they create their own income. Then they can hire women and pay them more.

    • says

      Entrepreneurship is a potentially good solution! Throwing someone into the deep end forces the person to figure out how to survive and thrive real quick.

      A day job is easy compared to entrepreneurship. But if you feel you are being underpaid, then you can either speak up or do something on your own.

  6. says

    Interesting article. I wasn’t prepared for the poll at the bottom, though. I’m not sure I like any of them. I don’t like the idea of penalizing someone to promote equality, rather I prefer the idea of bringing women’s pay up to the level of men’s.

    That being said, I do believe there are a multitude of factors that get lost in the outrage, and I like Holly’s contribution to the discussion. In the end, it will be almost impossible to prove equality across the board because men and women are simply so different: career choices, competitiveness, aggression, etc. There’s no superior and inferior here. Just different. I think the challenge for corporations will be to take those into consideration on a case by case basis.

    But I do think it’s harmful to simply throw out the numbers and yell, “SEE?!” The cause is more than worthy, but it is too complex for petty generalizations that harm both sexes.

    • says

      What about starting a company that only hires women? Much like a woman’s only school. If we eliminate the perceived oppressor variable (men) we can better analyze. But I’m sure there will be other organizational issues that crop up as well.

      • says

        That’s not a bad thought. That would help to isolate the differences that are found only between the women rather than compounding the competition between genders.

  7. says

    Yeap, lots of women have figured out the deck is stacked and are taking their skills and talents to their own endeavors.
    An AmEx OPEN forum article says, “… from 1997 to 2013, the number of women-owned companies increased by 59 percent, while revenues from those companies grew by 63 percent.
    The guys can have their old, hierarchal cubical life – women want more (and it isn’t always measured in dollars)!

  8. Jamie V says

    This is certainly an interesting article! I’m still not quite sure what I think of the whole thing – I’m at the age where I’m still figuring out what I believe in, I guess? When I got my [current] job, I didn’t negotiate the pay, they just told me flat out; when my boyfriend got his job, they asked him for the pay range he had in mind (we work at different places so the hiring process is different) and they worked from there. In my current role, and knowing what I put in versus what my perception of what my male team members put in (besides the manager, I’m the only female on the 8 person team), I think I’m doing only *okay*. Some team members are newer than me so I have no clue what they started at (though I’m under the impression [from what I heard through the grapevine] that they started higher than what I started at, and yet, I’ve only gotten so many raises/so much..), but I’m thinking we may be equal in pay at this point, which ruffles my feathers. Also, another teammate who has been with this employer for longer than I have been, transferred from another team and I have no doubt he is making way more than me – the company makes it a point to never, ever decrease pay when you transfer from one team to another. I’m not sure what to think about this – on one hand, he has more years with the company and if I were with this company for that amount of time, I’d sure want to be making much more! But on the other hand, he has no experience with this team whereas I have so much. Is it still right that he’s making significantly more than me? I really don’t know.

    Because of all this – and because I don’t feel it’s right for me to go to my manager, demanding to know what the others are being paid and saying I think it’s right or wrong – I made it my goal to put in a lot of extra work this year and to keep track of it to the point where every month or two, I send the pages-long summaries to my manager to keep for my review in winter (I want one years’ worth of ammo [no, they don’t do mid-year raises]), where I will fight for my cause: pay me more, pay me what I think I deserve. I could hop from one team to another once every year and get a 2K+ raise each time (like some people), but I don’t, because I feel loyal enough to stay, and yet I get screwed out of that yearly “raise” had I just flip flopped every single time; it’s BS and maybe I should change my tactic and not care so much and move around more frequently? I am currently looking for other jobs within the company that sound like I might enjoy them, and I have let my manager know (it’s company policy that your manager must know if you are looking within the company), though if I end up here until my review, then my review will either light a bonfire under my arse or make me rather happy.

    The question at the end was pretty easy for me to answer, but I’m open to other opinions (including regarding the above) because I’m still learning and trying to see things from other perspectives. I first chose: “Institute equal parental leave for both spouses” because by not doing so, you are reinforcing the idea that the mother is the more important part in parenting and in what should be an equal duo – the marriage contract is proof right there that the parents/partners are equal; otherwise they’d call it something else (please note that I’m not saying people who aren’t married, or are in other arrangements are not equal – I don’t mean that at all).

    My second choice was: “Eliminate parental leave for mothers and only allow the use of vacation days…” and this is a bit more selfish because I don’t have kids, my boyfriend doesn’t have kids, we don’t plan on having kids, and yet we don’t get the same leave that people who have kids do, though I’d sure appreciate 8-10 weeks off every few years to take care of my major goals in life. It seems unfair that if I were to have a child, I’d get the time off, but if I don’t, I’m “stuck” (and I know women who have kids for the benefits, but neglect the kids, and I could not do that to another human so I refuse to pop one or five out). I know many men who are upset about this lack of equality, too, so playing devil’s advocate here, while women get parental leave and men do not (for the most part), men get paid higher in the workplace – does it even out? Also, here’s another example: some of us have pets who are our children but when we need to leave because Sparky ate a beach ball, we’re frowned at or not even allowed to leave because it’s “just a pet”. But it is something that relies on us to be there in time of need. Please note – I use the pet example as one of many. My boyfriend’s pet died a few years ago because it was having seizures as he got ready for work, and by the time he got off work at 5 pm (job refused to let him take a sick day for it and he was out of vacation time, and he’d be fired for not coming in for “no excuse”) it was too late and that was a heartbreaking one to get over. Meanwhile, a co-worker with a just wife (no kids) who got allergies one morning was able to be out for a whole day to take her to the doctor. It just seems wrong. We have learned many a lessons from this example.

    I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for this to be so long!

    • says

      I can’t comment on your work/raise situation because I have never worked in a corporate environment-only at small businesses and for myself. Maybe someone else could chime in here?

      As for maternity leave, I can assure you that 8-10 weeks is not nearly enough for a woman to have a baby and bond with their child. Fair or not, women bear the burden of growing another human being in their body and magically giving life. I took ten weeks off with each of my children and I still went back to work in miserable shape, often running on less than 2 hours of sleep. Maternity leave is not a luxury by any means; it is a necessity. Without it, many women would never be able to join the workforce to begin with. How sad would that be? And how does that benefit equality for women in any way?

      Use your vacation days to accomplish your major goals in life. That’s what I do. Having a child is not on par with putting a new roof on your house or training for a marathon. It’s unfair to saddle women with all of the responsibility for bearing children since each child is the product of one man and one woman. What you’re suggesting lets men off the hook completely and puts women at even more of an economic disadvantage.

    • says

      Love this:

      “I first chose: “Institute equal parental leave for both spouses” because by not doing so, you are reinforcing the idea that the mother is the more important part in parenting and in what should be an equal duo ”

      Also, more people should speak to women who either decide not to have children or CAN’T have children for whatever reason and ask their perspective. There are some big time opinions from this angle.

      My advice for you is to know your worth, and to ask for what you believe you are worth if you think you are being underpaid. Don’t let it slide.

      • says

        I agree that both parents should take on an equal role when it comes to child-rearing. However, I don’t agree that men necessarily *need* as much leave as women do when they have a child. Women carry a child for 9 months then go through a huge ordeal to give birth. It takes months for the body to heal properly. You can’t just gloss over the fact that men don’t have to contribute to the development of the child during pregnancy, nor completely wreck their body to give it life.
        You act as if one parent lays an egg and they take turns sitting on it. That is clearly not the case.

        • says

          Holly, we’re not arguing about the physical aspect of giving birth. The purpose of equal parental leave is to make employers BLIND to “child risk,” thereby lowering the chances of paying a female employee less.

          • says

            I realize that. I just don’t see the point in arguing for father’s paternity leave rights when women have little to no rights to maternity leave in this country. Businesses aren’t required to provide any type of maternity leave to their female employees the last time I checked. The small business I worked for when I was pregnant wasn’t even required to hold my job for me.
            I suppose I’m just not interested in hearing about how fathers deserve equal time off when women are basically guaranteed none at this point. However, I can maybe see how it might make it harder for employers to discriminate against women who take time off to have a child.

            • says

              No way! I don’t think bringing down one group is ever the right way to bring another up.

              I do believe women deserve the right to mandated maternity leave of some kind, however. I know someone who recently went back to work 2 weeks after having a baby because she wasn’t being paid and felt she had to. That is wrong on so many levels.

  9. says

    If candidates for a position or promotion have equal credentials they should be paid the same no matter what their gender. Equal parental leave does level the playing field a bit, but doesn’t change the fact that men can’t give birth. :) I wonder is the gap is consistent across all industries?

  10. Bh says

    Great article. Like many women, I do quite well at representational negotiation but quite terribly when negotiating on behalf of myself. I didn’t negotiate my current starting salary and I haven’t asked for a raise yet. I’ve convinced myself the only way I’ll get what I want is to start my own business. On the other hand, my current company does not have a single woman as a principal, on the board, or in any meaningful leadership position, so maybe they would be receptive to giving me more responsibility and pay. I guess you don’t know until you ask!

    • says

      Definitely ask! That is interesting that you find it easier to negotiate for others, but not yourself. Start with loving everything about yourself and work from the inside out. It’s worth trying to ascertain the market for your skills.

  11. G says

    Solution: Negotiate, network, negotiate, network, negotiate. Always ask for raise at every appraisal. Take on more responsibilities, challenge some processes, speaking up

  12. SP says

    I have negotiated salary before, but in comparing anecdotes with male friends, I’ve gotten push back earlier and more aggressively than they do.

    As much as I’d also like to think the educated world relies on merit as a basis for everything, there are lots of people with different backgrounds and some people buy more into gender stereotypes than others. Sometimes it’s subconscious, too; few people have told a woman they’re uncomfortable with the fact she’s not as passive as they expect, but I’ve seen it show up in their behavior and they aren’t even aware.

    “That’s not very cute.”
    “That’s not really a feminine thing to say…”

    Etc.

    It can certainly be difficult to be bold and assertive and ask for what you feel due when there’s sometimes also a penalty for being bold and assertive and asking for what you feel due — and it’s not always clear who will enforce such a penalty. Men generally do not have to grapple with this particular issue.

    • G says

      Often at work I still feel it is a boy’s club! I know the feeling when they tend to push you aside or belittle you for your work despite doing more than a male counterpart.

      • SP says

        I think you might be missing the point, Sam — the line is placed in different spots for men and women currently.

  13. Anna says

    Of these choices, I’d guess that equalizing parental leave and deliberately promoting more women would be the most effective actions. They both go towards changing the dominant culture – normalizing both father participation in child-rearing and presence of women in positions of power.

  14. anon123 says

    As a newly married 26 year old woman with a graduate degree, these figures chill me. They make me not want to apply for law school or do a PhD because I know that once I have children, even after maternity leave, I will likely always be a bit behind my male counterparts and women that don’t have children.

    If I take maternity leave for 2-3 children, I will be 2-3 years behind my spouse in terms of salary and career options. Therefore, we will likely prioritize his career in the future because he will likely earn more. I likely won’t be able to take off for the weekend for a last minute conference, or work late every night. Daycare doesn’t revolve around parent schedules.

    I don’t think any of the above options will really help, except maybe courses that women can take during maternity leave to figure out how to keep their careers on track. Equal parental leave is a step in the right direction, but women are the ones giving birth and breastfeeding, so in most cases the woman will still stay home with the child. Even if she doesn’t, she will need to take time off to give birth and to pump milk. Men do not have the deal with these challenges.

    I’m not sure what the ultimate solution is. To me, my only personal solution is to enter less competitive fields that will welcome me back and that I will not have to start at the bottom of the totem pole. But this is severely limiting and frustrating.

    • BH says

      Don’t be too frustrated. You mentioned law school so I’ll say this: I worked in big law for a while and there were plenty of women who made partner even after taking multiple maternity leaves. Even if it takes a year or so longer, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not that big of a deal. You’d be making plenty of money as a 7th or 8th year associate. Law, and based on some friends’ experiences, medicine, are both good at recognizing and keeping female talent. I realized early on that the carrot didn’t appeal to me and got out of big law, so I’d advise against law school for other reasons, but not because you’re going to face special challenges as a woman. Pretty much all mid- to large-size firms give a minimum of 3 months maternity leave these days, and my experience was that unless you are partner, you take the full leave, lest you set the wrong standard and annoy all the other female associates.

      • Gavin says

        Is it safe to make the assumption that most men will take advantage of parental leave? If men who take the leave are stigmatized for doing so, then many men will choose not to take their allotted leave for fear of losing respect in the office. Legal change without social change will have minimal effect.

        I think making employers provide pay data for positions would be an effective way to reduce the pay gap. If women know the average for the position they are about to accept is $100,000 they would be less likely to agree to a salary of $80,000. Of course corporate leaders would oppose legislation with that requirement because it gives more leverage to all employees to demand higher pay.

        • says

          That’s a fair point. But once there’s equal parental leave, then there is much more fairness because both sides have the option of taking the time off or not, and employers become more blind to the risk of employees leaving them.

    • says

      “I’m not sure what the ultimate solution is. To me, my only personal solution is to enter less competitive fields that will welcome me back and that I will not have to start at the bottom of the totem pole.”

      You are playing not to lose, rather than playing to win. It’s important to be more assertive.

  15. Shaun says

    Maybe instead of focusing on what women are doing wrong we should focus on what men are doing right? If you are a guy with money it helps you to get girls. Its by all means not all that matters, but it helps. If you are a girl with more money does it really help you get guys at all? Not saying that is the only incentive to make more money, but is there a bigger incentive women experience in their lives vs the 20 something year old single male’s desire for girls? I’m not sure there is.

    Not trying to oversimplify this or not mention clear discrimination women also face. Just saying in my mind men have the incentives to want it more and the lack of caring about conflict to go after it.

    • says

      Good point about focusing on what men are doing right, and learning from that angle.

      I have a similar post about learning from the Asian culture on their money habits since the income, savings, and education levels are significantly higher than average.

    • says

      Funny yeah? But all choices are ACTIONABLE SOLUTIONS! If we enact every one of these solutions, surely the gender wage gap would narrow.

      A 20% pay cut for men and BAM! Equality right there.

  16. Kristy says

    Am I the only one that think that the pay gap is okay? The pay gap, in my opinion exists because females typically take more time off for maternity leave or to stay at home with the kids or other family members. My guess is that most stay at home moms do not keep up with their careers, continuing education, etc while at home. I feel that if men took as much time off and didn’t keep up with their careers then their pay would also be lower. But let’s face it, more women take time off than men do. Also, I think there is far more to the pay scale than just income. As a working mom of two, flexibility is extremely important to me and my family. So, I would take a lower offer to have more flexibility than a higher one with no flexibility.

    So, if one has been out of the workforce for 5 years, should they go back and be paid the same as someone who has stayed in the workforce? I am just trying to see the other side.

    • whoanelly says

      I am in total agreement with you. I am a part-time working mother of two, and I’d rather have the flexibility to be home a few more hours with my kids in exchange for a pay/benefit dip. I still end up working at night after they’ve gone to bed but I’d rather have that then lose my career entirely that I’ve worked so hard for. So it’s a balance.

      I really feel that I can’t be as engaged as my full-time counterparts because of this leniency. And for that, I can understand the pay gap. But at some point, I expect the gap to close when I’m back full-time pulling my weight like the rest. I can understand the frustration for women who chose not to have children.

      I think Advice #1 from Warren Farrell is the best one. The pay gap is quite tight in engineering. I worked for many years before having kids and developed a solid skill base, so my company was willing to allow me to work part-time while my kids are still small. They even had a mother’s room for me to pump while I was still nursing. One day in the near future I will go back full-time, but I may be passed over for new and better assignments because I am now “mommy-tracked”. I’ll just have to try harder to overcome that.

      Personally I don’t think a professional can just go back to where they were after being out of the workforce for 5 years. I can’t see myself being able to do it, so much changes over time in the workplace. A rare occurrence, but I knew of a woman engineer who left the workforce for 11 years to raise her children. The last 3-4 of those years she went to graduate school part-time to earn her MS. Then re-hired one step lower from where she was when she left. Worked very hard and within 4-5 years became a manager of a group. It can happen under the right circumstances.

    • says

      Seems like a logical conclusion that if one is out of the work force for longer, they would get paid less.

      I love flexibility, which is why I left corporate American in 2012 to be a writer. I get paid way less, but that is the tradeoff for more freedom.

      So to Holly’s point with The Real Housewives Of Suburbia, perhaps some women deserve to get paid less due to choice?

    • Dave says

      Readers, do you believe some women actually deserve to be paid less than men?

      Honestly, I’m with you here in thinking that is okay. Take for example the oft sited “women earn 77% of what men do”. This is a very broad comparison that doesn’t account for:

      1. Choice of profession
      2. Number of hours worked
      3. Years of experience

      Taken to an extreme, if you want equality under that measure, you think that a female grocery clerk should earn the same $$ that a male plastic surgeon does (extremes were chosen for low and high paying jobs). In other words, you don’t think that people should be paid differently for different output (either in quality, quantity or type). So yes, I think the gender wage gap exists and it isn’t a bad thing, as the job marketplace is a highly complex subject with a lot of variables.

      • Jason says

        Yes, I think it’s a mistake to simply say that “women get paid less than men”.

        I could have sworn that, just recently, I saw a similar report and it showed that there WAS no gender pay inequality. What it did show was that previous reports were flawed because they didn’t take into account many things like what Dave mentioned: hours of work, full-time vs. part-time, the physical danger of the job, and the studies didn’t go into enough detail about exact job specifications, etc.

        Actually, I think I found the link to it here: http://www.consad.com/content/reports/Gender%20Wage%20Gap%20Final%20Report.pdf

        The key finding (clipped from the report): “This study leads to the unambiguous conclusion that the differences in the compensation of men and women are the result of a multitude of factors and that the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action. Indeed, there may be nothing to correct. The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.”

      • SP says

        I don’t think so. The stats that Sam cited were by profession type, not in aggregate. This isn’t a question of whether or not women working as entry-level grocery store clerks should make as much as male entry-level programmers.

        This is a question of if female entry-level programmers should be paid as much as male entry-level programmers. If you look at the chart in this post, there’s still a wage gap of women making about 87 cents on the dollar compared to men in that line of work. In contrast, bookkeepers/accountants have parity. How do you justify that? They are similar in what level of education, physical strength, etc., is needed.

        • Dave says

          Okay, I think I have found the report that the statistics are from at: http://www.iwpr.org/publications/pubs/the-gender-wage-gap-by-occupation-1

          From what it appears, it is just by professional type, but again, doesn’t take into account any of the other potential variables: hours worked (other than a minimum of 35 hours per week and over the age of 16) or experience.

          But, if you want to parse the data further, let’s take some of the line items:

          1. Bookkeeping clerks (women earn 100.3%). Fairly basic work and a clerk is generally a clerk. So, there isn’t a lot of potential for lumping different tracks together (such as lumping family doctors in with high paying surgical specialties, which would lead to an uneven weighting if one gender had a higher representation in one field compared to the other).

          2. On the other hand, you have something like accountants and auditors (women earning 76.5% of the weekly earnings of men), which has a wide variety of levels. In public accounting, you have staff, senior, managers, directors and partners (which may all be covered by the same definition, and getting far into the definitions isn’t something I want to do tonight). Generally, the way to go from one level to the other is years of experience. No idea what the distribution of men to women is at the higher levels, but I’m guessing it is male heavy (and they, the earnings will be in their favor on average).

          So, this may very well have an uneven distribution, but without more data (which would potentially lead to controlling more variables), it isn’t that useful to make absolute statements. Now, if you want to say, at X Company, the 1st or even 5th year women (with the same titles and all of that jazz), only earn <100% of men's, that would be something else, as some more of the variables are controlled for. Even that may not account for specific skill sets or even hours worked (assuming that they are paid on an hourly basis). But, if you use the blunt data (in the pdf file), I think you will end up at the wrong sorts of conclusions.

  17. Mike says

    Join a high performance profession that pays everyone equally based on an openly available pay scale – the U.S. military. 1) we need more women warriors 2) across the board it’s more egalitarian than corporate America 3) there’s nothing more badass than a woman in charge of a $300 million war machine.

  18. ND says

    As a woman in a senior position (one of the C-suite), I can tell you I am paid the same as men in my role for my size of organization. How did I get here – hard work, long hours and when it seemed that my career was stalling in a company and I couldn’t get the pay I was looking for, I moved to another company. A mentor of mine (a man), told me that no-one cares for your career more than you do.

    Now I also happen to be childless, not by choice but by circumstances, and most people believe it is by choice so that may be why I guess they don’t see a “child risk” with me. and they view me as career-focused. I do believe though that there is a child penalty in some organizations and it is not just applied to women. In some organizations, the needs of the organization come first and if a person is too focused on personal matters whatever they may be, that could become a reason why that person doesn’t get the promotion or put on the track to senior leadership. I am not saying its right but it does happen. Then the pay gap does start to widen because of the personal choices or needs of the individual result in them not wanting or being able to do the things needed to get to the higher pay.

    When I consider people for promotion, I look at their work history, their abilities and potential to grow into the new role and new responsibilities. If the person has too much personal stuff going on, then they may not be able to handle those additional responsibilities (whether its a male or female, young or old, doesn’t matter – the answer I am looking of is “can they do the job and all it entails?”. If they can demonstrate that they can handle the additional responsibilities, then I will promote them – doesn’t matter the gender or age.

    • says

      Thanks for your perspective, and congrats on getting into the C-suite!

      Your analysis during promotions is exactly how I thought during my time in Corporate America. “Will this person get the stuff done in an excellent manner, or not?” Pretty simple.

      It’s hard to have it all. Choices must be made.

  19. Nika says

    My take is the system of compensation needs to be more transparent. It is easy to discriminate when you really don’t know what someone else in the same position makes. Why doesn’t a company simply post/publish every employees salary? Then supervisors would need to explain the differences (more productive, seniority, etc.).

    Another thought would to assign a lot of different job codes or positions to each person and have a standard pay system for that position, similar to what the federal government does with GS positions. A job has a payscale “pay grade number” and then based on the number of years experience (and other qualifications) the employee is assigned a “step number”. Thus, an Engineer could be a GS 13 Step 5, which can be looked up on a payscale chart (http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/salaries-wages/salary-tables/pdf/2014/GS.pdf) and everyone would know that person makes $82,043. At that point there is no argument over getting a special/secret raise. It is possible to get a slight bump by negotiating an additional Step increase, but this rarely happens.

  20. says

    It’s funny how we as men can get caught up in our own little worlds, complaining if we don’t get big enough pay-rises, but forget that there’s some real unfairness out there for most women.

    I liked the earlier comments suggesting entrepreneurship for women. Whilst it’s potentially a more difficult path, it’s probably easier than trying to change the world – and perhaps the motivation to re-balance this inequality could help increase the odds of success! A previous female colleague of mine has started up an angel investor business focused on female entrepreneurs and sounds like it’s doing great. Would be great to see things like this get more momentum.

  21. Bill says

    I own a small business with 19 employees. 6 women work in the office, 13 men work in the warehouse. Both jobs have about the same importance to me. I start all new employees, women or men at the same wage. Over time the women end up making less money then there male counterparts for a couple of reasons.

    The first and biggest reason is they ask for raises far less than the men do. Why would I pay more to anyone if there not going to ask for it? I’m in business to make money. If you want some of it you got to be willing to ask for it.

    Secondly, I allow all our female employees much more flexibility when it comes to kids and family’s. I don’t give a second thought if a female employee takes a week off for a funeral. If one of the male employees takes more than a day or two he’s looked upon as weak. As far as the kids are concerned the female employees are encouraged to go to their kids sporting events, school functions, doctor appointments and such. The men are allowed to do the same but it’s defiantly not encouraged. Our female employees seem to value this flexibility more than the dollar or two an hour they are making less than the men.

    I do take care of all my employees very well and have very little turnover. Its just been my experience that most of the men will work longer hours and take less time off in order to make more money where my female employees value flexibility more than money.

    Right or wrong it seems to work for me and my employees.

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