News / USA

US Gender Pay Gap Still Exists

In the past, a popular explanation for the gender pay gap was that women received less education than men.  However, women last year earned 58 percent higher education degrees for the first time in US history
In the past, a popular explanation for the gender pay gap was that women received less education than men. However, women last year earned 58 percent higher education degrees for the first time in US history

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Tatiana Vorozhko

Despite some gains at the higher income levels over the last two years, women in the United States still earn less money than men.  This according to the federal Government Accountability Office.  The GAO presented a report last week  to a House of Representatives committee which indicates that salary parity between men and women in the United States has not yet been reached.

Those findings grabbed attention of policymakers and the media: a bill called the "Paycheck Fairness Act," which toughens employers` legal responsibility to eliminate gender discrimination, is about to be introduced in the U.S. Senate.

The research studied the compensation of male and female managers in 2007.  It found that women managers earned 81 cents for every dollar that men made.   The study also showed that while women make up 40 percent of managers at all other levels, they constitute only three percent of all Chief Executive Officers.  These data reflect only a slight improvement over the situation in the year 2000.

"Women are stuck," Ilene Lang, Catalyst, Inc said. "Despite decades of efforts to create opportunities for advancement, deep inequalities persist."

In the past, a popular explanation for the pay gap was that women received less education than men.  However, women last year earned 58 percent of all Bachelor's and Master's degrees and, for the first time in US history, received the majority of PhDs.  Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney is unhappy about the findings.  

"Even though there's a bright spot in that more women are gaining education. We're closing the education gap but we're not closing the pay gap," Maloney said.

Others feel there is still gender-based discrimination in the workplace. Ellen Galinsky is President of the Families and Work Institute. "Prejudices that exist are based on ideas that are from another time, another kind of economy, another type of family life that doesn`t exist today," she said.

Some have suggested that women are more modest and do not negotiate their salaries the way men do.  The GAO research showed that female MBAs during their first year out of college earn $4,600 less than men with the same education and professional experience. One TV network conducted its own experiment on salary negation.

Half of the men in the experiment asked for the maximum rate.  But only a third of the women did the same.  

In contrast to the overall trend, single, childless women in metropolitan areas -- between the ages of 22 and 30 -- earn eight percent more than men in the same category.  And Black and Hispanic women out-earn their male counterparts by an even larger margin. Those findings by Reach Advisers, a consumer-research firm, were released in the beginning of this year.  

But for married women with children, the old-style disparity is still true. The GAO research indicated that femaile managers who have children earn 79 percent of the salaries received by male managers with children. It has also been suggested that mothers may be less eager to move up the career ladder if doing so involves travel or long working hours.

According to a recent magazine survey, some companies such as IBM, PriceWaterhouseCooper or Bank of America seem to have grasped what women want. It is not only equal pay for equal work. It is also having opportunities to lead a more balanced life: to be able to adjust working hours based on family responsibilities, to use flextime or telecommute, as well as to have quality day care close to the workplace.  These companies offer such benefits to men as well."

In a modern economy, in which women make up half the workforce, experts say fair compensation is important for the well-being of their families, for a number of reasons:

Women are more likely to be employed in recession-proof sectors of the economy than men -- who often hold most of the
jobs in hard-hit sectors such as construction.

Women also make most of the decisions on family purchases.

In addition several recent studies have shown that companies where women are better represented at the senior executive level perform better than companies with fewer women in high positions.  One of these companies is Campbell Soup. It recently announced the appointment of Denise Morrison as its new executive president.

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