There are many things students should understand before entering the workforce. The country’s gender wage gap is one of them.
What’s the gender wage gap? In America, women earn roughly 77 cents to every dollar a man makes, according to a Huffington Post article about the census report. I would have checked the Census for you, but the government shutdown meant no survey data. Bummer.
Not all states are as low as 77 cents; for example, California has one of the lowest wage gaps; women make 84 cents for every man’s dollar, while other states have women who make as little as 67 cents for every dollar (hello, Louisiana!) according to Forbes’ “The Geography Of The Gender Pay Gap: Women’s Earnings By State.”
Wait a second, you’re probably saying. The highest you can get is 84 cents, not a whole dollar?
Correct. The wage gap between men and women has made great improvements in the last century, but further improvement stalled out in the early 2000’s.
Why is this? WSJ’s article “Male-Female Pay Gap Hasn’t Moved Much in Years” has a few insights. For one, women might be growing in education and earning graduate degrees, but not necessarily in fields that offer the highest wages. Women also tend to work less hours than men, many having other responsibilities outside of work. But the article also points out that discrimination is also still a factor.
So how does this apply to college students?
The obvious effect is that ladies who study now will most likely make less than their male classmates in the future. Good thing is we’re all already in school; the wage gap between grads and non-grads is an entirely worse situation.
How do women find out if they’re victims of the gender wage gap and receive unequal pay? Often companies enforce an employee wage nondisclosure agreement, so finding out what someone else makes can only be heard through the grapevine or off the record; not something you can go to your boss about.
The best way to fix that is to go to your supervisors and discuss you and your coworkers’ abilities to discuss pay, and why you think it would be a positive thing for all employees. See if your workplace supports the Fair Pay Act, which prohibits discrimination in the payment of wages on the account of sex, gender and national origin.
The Fair Pay Act has yet to be passed in Congress, but is supported by women’s groups and advocates seeking equal pay for women. Your employer isn’t held to this act since it has not passed, so ask if they support it and what their take on it is.
The issue isn’t entirely gender discrimination, or wage negotiation either. While women now outnumber men in U.S. universities, but Sarah Jane Glynn, associate director of women’s economic policy at the Center for American Progress, told the Wall Street Journal that while women are getting graduate degrees, they aren’t necessarily in the highest paying fields.
According to CBS, it’s “a chicken-and-the-egg problem” where women have lower salary expectations — 14 percent lower than men’s, according to their article. And sadly, women factor in the wage gap when thinking about their expected salaries. Men, on the other hand, overestimate.
Women and female students shouldn’t be afraid to both dream and demand big salaries. Men’s overestimates could be a factor in why 46 percent of men always negotiate their salary, while only 30 percent of women negotiate, according to Salary.com.
The New York Times’ article, “How To Attack the Gender Wage Gap? Speak Up” said to stop the gender wage gap, women need to (obviously) speak up and be prepared to negotiate. According to the article, how a woman approaches negotiation is also key — readiness to negotiate beyond the first offer, and also the right attitude to negotiate. A person needs to demand, but not come off as pushy or unlikeable since that will count against her. The NYT article sites Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean In,” and how understanding the dynamics of asking is the way to overcome the unfair situation.
A lot of it falls to the assumption that this is the way it is: men make more, women make less. But that assumption is the very core of the issue. As college students and a new generation entering the workforce, we need to think forward and set better goals for women in the workplace to close the gap.