Academic journal article Advancing Women in Leadership

American Women and the Gender Pay Gap: A Changing Demographic or the Same Old Song

Academic journal article Advancing Women in Leadership

American Women and the Gender Pay Gap: A Changing Demographic or the Same Old Song

Article excerpt

Women have made great strides in education and career opportunity selections since the passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963. Despite these many gains, female remuneration has not kept pace. The gender pay-gap continues to exist with serious consequences for women and the families that depend on their earnings. The gap is presented and framed historically and legislation is presented that has influenced women's pay. A variety of explanations for why the gap continues are explored and debunked. The effects of the pay gap are presented and analyzed with policy initiatives offered underscoring possible solutions.

Keywords: pay, compensation, gender, inequality

Introduction

The working world has changed dramatically for women over the past several decades. Societal attitudes have changed regarding the role of women in the house and at work. Aided by laws that have provided increasing opportunities, women's presence in the labor force has steadily increased. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010a), 47% of all employees are women with an unemployment rate of 8% compared to men who comprise 53% of the labor force with an unemployment rate of 9.8%. Men's occupations have been especially hard hit with job losses during the recent recession with construction and manufacturing taking inordinate job losses thus explaining some of the differences of unemployment rates by gender (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010a). The coined term "Mancession" has even been used to show the disproportionate impact of job loss on men compared to women during the recent recession (Baxter, 2009; Thompson, 2009; White, 2010). Consequently, the importance of women's earnings has never been more significant to the financial health of family households.

In educational attainment, women still hold fewer university degrees than men when comparing the total population over 25 years of age. However, for the age demographic of 35 to 44 years, women earned Bachelor's degrees or higher at a rate of 31.7% compared to men with similar educational achievements at only 29%. This trend appears to be continuing where the age range of 18 to 24 years showed women earning bachelor or higher degrees at a rate of 10.9% compared to men who had a rate of only 7.2% (U. S. Census, 2010a).

Women have made inroads earning law, business, and medical degrees but still lag men in these fields (U. S. Census, 2010a). Despite trailing men in these fields, women are no longer restricted to working jobs only in domestic work, nursing, clerking, or teaching. It might be said that we currently live in the age of great women role models where Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotamayor, Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lead the way. With these achievements, many feel that the battle for gender equality and gender discrimination no longer exists. With men's job losses grabbing headlines, the gender gap measured by many metrics has shrunk to the point that the issue appears irrelevant and not even referenced on most literary forum's back pages.

The relevancy of the topic is the focus of this investigation. First, the gender earnings gap will be explained. This will include a discussion on the current state of the gap and some historical reference to where the issue of equal pay began. This will be followed by a brief discussion on legislation that has influenced the issue of gender pay equality. Next, some critical analysis and discussion will be devoted to why the pay gap still exists including the impact of gender pay inequality where the dominance of single parent households is women. Finally, we present policy and employment practice suggestions that could be used to help address the pay gap issues.

Pay Gap Explained and the Historical Context

The gender pay gap refers to pay discrepancies between men and women where women bring home smaller paychecks compared to their male counterparts (Income Gender Gap, 2010). …

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