Wage Gap for Women: Both Sides of the Story

By Cooper, Mary Ann | The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education, January 13, 2014 | Go to article overview

Wage Gap for Women: Both Sides of the Story


Cooper, Mary Ann, The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education


arguments seem like no-brainers. Equal pay for equal ^ *Bill BBwork seems to he one of those arguments. How could VJ BB B B B vJ anyone be opposed to such a democratic concept? And in a year where one political party is being accused - justly or unjustly - of waging a war on women, the equal pay for equal work battle cry' is especially resonant with working women in .America. But Like every other debate we are having these days in our polarized nation, the issue is complicated.

Here are the main arguments that support and refine the equal pay for equal work argument:

The Center for American Progress (CAP) uses hard statistics to make its case. It says women who work full time year round continue to earn only about 77 percent of what men earn. The gap between the median wage for a man and that of a woman in 2010 was $10.784 per year. The gender wage gap gets larger with age and builds up over time. For voting women at the beginning of their careers - between the ages of 25 to 29 - the annual wage gap is about SI,700. But for women in the final five years of their careers before retirement, the wage gap grows lo a whopping $14,352. Over a 40-year career, the average woman will lose $4.31,000 to the gender wage gap.

The Independent Women's Forum (IWF) acknowledges that women do make less income than men, but don't view tills as discriminatory and hits back at liberals for inflating this issue.

When the Paycheck Fairness Act was being debated, Sabrina Schaeffer, executive director of Independent Women's Forum, issued this statement: "Democrats, who frame the issue as a 'War on W'omeu,' should be embarrassed by this story not only because it hints at possible sexism, bul tdsu because 11 reveals the absurdity of he debate over the 'wage gap' and the Paycheck Fairness Act These 'raw' salaries tell us nothing about the qualifications, educational background or w'ork-life preferences of any of these individuals.''

The IWF has its own statistics to promote its argument. They say the average full-time female worker spends 7.81 hours per day on the job, versus the 8.3 hours for the average full-time working male. Men make up 55 percent of workers averaging more than 35 hours a week. In 2007, 25 percent of men working full-time jobs worked 41 or mure hours a week, compared to 14 percent of full-time women. Men were found to be more likely to work in dirty or dangerous conditions, and sustained, the overwhelming majority of workplace injuries and deaths. It is reasonable thaï these additional risks often warrant higher salaries, concludes the IWF.

CAP says that opponents to equal pay' for equal work are using these statistics to confuse the issue. Arguably, people working longer hours or in dangerous or unsavory conditions should be compensated more than those working less and. in safer conditions, but the Paycheck Fairness Act is about EQUAL pay for EQUAL work Differences in hours logged or working conditions have nothing to do with the basic premise of equal pay for equal work. IWFs point, however, is that differences in working conditions and hours on die job can skew the same statistics that proponents of new legislation ase to make their argument.

CAP also points to the fact that women are now earning the majority' of college degrees, but that has done nothing to mitigate the pay gap between the sexes, lite American Association of Lnivcrsity Women found that college-educated women begin their careers earning 5 percent less than their male peers - even when they went to the same schools, had the samo GPA, were hired for the same jobs and had the same marital status and family makeup in terras of the parenting of children. .After 10 years on the job, the wage gap expands to 12 percent, even when women don't miss a beat competing with their male counterparts at the same job.

The IWF points out that college women tend to major in less lucrative professions and fields of study because, according to survey research conducted by Basil Zafar in 2009 for the Federal Reserve Bank of hew York, women often consider issues like parental approval and enjoyment of future work when choosing a major, while their male colleagues are more concerned with salaries and status. …

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