Since the second half of the 20th century, women’s participation in the labor force has significantly grown. Women are now actively pursuing higher education and working long hours.

But despite all this progress, women are still earning less than men for the same work—especially women of color. The gender pay gap refers to the difference in earnings made by men and women in the same position.

Of all the societal gender issues that need to be addressed, one that needs immediate attention would be the gender pay gap or wage gap. Women are generally paid less than men while doing the same job with the same responsibilities.

The degree of difference varies from one profession to another and from country to country, but the fact that there’s a variation should be alarming.

What Causes the Pay Gap?

On average, women spend many hours of unpaid work, such as housework or childcare, leaving less time for them to spend on paid work. According to a 2018 study, almost 30% of women work part-time, while only 8% of men do the same.

Limited hiring choices of companies might also be due to women being more likely to take career breaks due to family responsibilities.

For example, female stars of the famous sitcom The Big Bang Theory reportedly only earned a fifth of what their male co-stars were making before they found out and demanded equal pay.

There are several more reasons for the widening difference in remuneration between men and women—such as men being able to enter higher-paying industries easier than women, discrimination in the hiring and promotion processes, etc. Some common causes include:

  • Discrimination in the workplace.

Gender-based pay discrimination is illegal but is still a frequent practice, especially for women of color. It’s commonly seen in workplaces where open pay discussions are not encouraged.

In some cases, employers might also rely on the person’s previous salary history while hiring or compensating, which confines women to the same low earnings.

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  • Differences in the positions worked.

By calculating the wage gap, we can see the segregation of men and women into different jobs and industries based on gender norms and stereotypes.

Jobs that have historically had more women in their workforce, such as childcare workers, offer fewer benefits and much lesser pay than the jobs with predominantly male forces.

  • Differences in the number of hours worked.

Women’s unpaid work, such as housework and child-rearing, take away from the time they can spend on a job that pays. Due to this, the amount of time spent on paid work is significantly low.

They are more likely to go for part-time jobs, which reduce the benefits and remuneration they get from full-time employment.

  • Difference in the years of experience.

As discussed in the previous point, women are unreasonably driven out of the workforce to accommodate unpaid social obligations.

This causes a rift in the experience women have compared to men, who are socially expected to dedicate all their efforts to progress their careers. The difference makes employers generally prefer hiring men over women.

These are only some of the significant factors causing the gender earnings gap. Some elements help reduce the remuneration gap as well, like the increased number of women going for higher education and advancing their careers.

What Can We Do About It?

The gender wage gap is a complex, stubborn issue that cannot be resolved quickly. Women are estimated to reach global wage parity with men at the current pace in more than two hundred years. But with united efforts, we can get pay equity much sooner.

When women achieve better financial security, their lives, social standing, prospects, and opportunities improve along with their self-esteem and mental health. It also creates greater gender equality, reduces poverty, and boosts the economy—there is truly nothing to lose by promoting gender equality.

Enforce laws:

The first step to fighting the gender-based wage disparity between men and women is to enforce laws that promote pay equity. Although many countries have established rules to combat discrimination based on gender, they are often not effectively implemented.

Raise awareness:

Activists across the globe are trying to get companies to commit to paying equal wages to both men and women. Awareness campaigns like ‘Equal Pay Day’ or the ‘equal pay for equal work’ movement help put the necessary pressure on big corporations to treat their employees fairly and without discrimination.

Support pay transparency:

If women cannot discuss their salaries with their colleagues, they won’t be able to tell if they earn less than them. The social stigma around them discussing their pay should be eradicated, and transparency should be encouraged in the workplace. It is an essential tool in fighting the gender-based pay disparity since it makes it more difficult for companies to pay their male employees more.

Raise the minimum wage:

Women make up most of the minimum wage workforce. Raising the minimum wage will help them provide for their families better and gradually guide them out of poverty. Nearly two-thirds of mothers globally are either breadwinners or co-breadwinners, so boosting the minimum wage amount could significantly increase their income and assist them in becoming more financially independent.

Both men’s and women’s earnings shift every year, but without active and planned effort, the wage gap will continue to widen. With comparatively less money to save and invest, women are at a higher risk of poverty and social exclusion at older ages.

Efforts to close the wage difference must also consider women of color, LGBTQ women, and those with diverse identities, who are at a higher risk. It is beyond time we come together to end the gender pay gap, as women and their families cannot afford to wait for it any longer.

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References

Gender pay gap, Wikipedia