Although women make up nearly half the U.S. labor force, American women on average still tend to earn less than their male counterparts even in like positions and with like skills. In the past five years, women have earned on average 80 cents for every dollar that a man earns. While that gap seems to decrease each year, it will not likely close at the current pace of change.2 First drafted in 1923, the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was finally ratified by the 38th state – Virginia – in January 2020,3 but whether its protections for women’s rights are actually added to the Constitution remains an open question.4
What Are the Primary Causes for the Gender Disparity?
There seem to be both explained and unexplained reasons for the difference in pay between men and women. Sometimes the difference in pay is linked to the positions that many women are offered, the number of subordinates, and the locations of their job offers. Other times, the only explanations for the gaps are gender bias, the assumption of gender norms, and the difference in negotiation tactics between men and women.2
How Do Companies Bridge the Gap?
For companies that want to do their part to end pay disparity, it is crucial to identify pay inequalities at like-for-level, which means when a woman and man have the same experience, qualifications, responsibilities, and achievements, their pay should be equal. Companies may do this by periodic reviews of pay levels and implementing policies and programs that include the recruitment, retention, and promotion of women and address pay issues when they are found.2
The Gap Goes Beyond a Paycheck
Unfortunately, the wage gap between men and women goes further than simple pay gaps. With the lower pay rates and higher amounts of time away from work, typically related to family and child-rearing, women are not able to amass savings in the same way that men do. The average net worth of females is half that of similar males. Women typically save just $0.32 for every dollar a man does on average.1
In addition to a smaller net worth, women also tend to be deeper in debt than males. They tend to outpace men in the earning of higher-level degrees to be able to earn higher pay rates, but to get this, they may find themselves at higher levels of debt pursuing their education.1
How Does the Country Fight For Change?
Bridging the gap may involve not only the diligent work of employers but also strong state and federal laws to ensure equal access to leadership positions and equal pay for equal work. In the meantime, women will need to continue advocating for themselves, negotiating for higher levels of pay and benefits, and assertively seek promotions and leadership opportunities that align with their skills, experience, and education.1
1The Gender Pay Gap, AAUW.org, https://www.aauw.org/issues/equity/pay-gap/
2Understanding ‘Equal Pay’ and How to Achieve It, Stanford Social Innovation Review, https://ssir.org/articles/entry/understanding_equal_pay_and_how_to_achieve_it
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however LPL Financial and MacNaughton & Associates LLC make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy.
This article was prepared by WriterAccess and Ann L. MacNaughton, past Council Member, State Bar of Texas Women and the Law Section (1988-92); Former Women’s Advocate, University of Houston (1973-74).