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It’s no secret that there’s a gender gap when it comes to employment. Each year Equal Pay Day symbolizes how far into the new year that the average woman would have to work to earn the same amount as the average man did the previous year. In 2014, Equal Pay Day fell on April 8th
The pay gap is not just a women’s issue, both men and women see a need for change. According to a Pew Research survey in December 2013, 72 percent of women and 61 percent of men said that “this country needs to continue making changes that give men and women equality in the workplace.”
Despite the passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which requires that women and men in the same workplace be given equal pay for equal work, the “gender gap” in pay continues to exist according to the White House. Full-time women workers earn only about 77 percent of what their male counterparts earn. This translates into women having to work an extra three months to make the same wage as men. For African-American and Latina women the pay gap is even bigger. African-American women earn 64 percent and Latina women earn 56 percent of what Caucasian men earn.
Others calculate the gender wage gap differently. Pew Research notes that according to their estimate, which is based on the hourly wages of both full-time and part-time workers, women earn 84 percent of what men earn. This means that women only need to work an additional two months to earn the same wage as their male counterparts did the year before.
While calculations differ, what is not in dispute is that a gender wage gap exists. The question is why?
One reason is that women gravitate towards lower paying jobs like teachers, secretaries and social workers according to an article in Think Progress. But, men who work in typically female-dominated industries still earn more than their female counterparts. And women who work in male-dominated fields like finance earn less than men.
Women are also likely to make less due to career interruptions. In a Pew Research survey women said they had taken a significant amount of time off from work or cut back on their work hours to take care of a child or family member, 39 percent and 42 percent respectively. While 27 percent say they have quit their jobs due to family responsibilities. In contrast, only 24 percent of fathers say they have taken significant time off to care for a child or other family member.
But even after career and personal choices have been taken into account there is still a disparity when it comes to wages. A study by economists found that “while experience, occupation, and industry explain much of the gap, there is still more than 40 percent that remains unexplained” according to an article in Think Progress.
In nearly every job category tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics the average woman earns less than the average man. Women hold only 4.6 percent of CEO positions at Fortune 500 companies and 4.6 percent of CEO positions at Fortune 1000 companies according to Catalyst.
These findings are a strong indicator of discrimination towards women in the workplace. Not surprisingly, women are twice as likely as men to say that they are have been discriminated against at work because of their gender.
Here’s hoping that Equal Pay Day, and the gender wage gap it symbolizes, will soon be only a memory. Much like we remember women marching for the right to vote.