Boss Lady

4 Things people overlook about the gender pay gap and why it exists


Despite the volumes of evidence confirming the gender pay gap, many people insist it does not exist. They say men and women do different jobs, women quit to have babies and there are fewer women in senior management. So of course women make less. They also say physical evidence of the presence of separate pay scales has never been found. Those arguments contain a number of things people overlook about the gender pay gap, so let’s take a few minutes to enlighten them a bit.

Men and Women Do Different Jobs

Granted men and women often do perform different functions on the organizational chart. However, study after study has shown when men and women are doing the exact same job, men tend to be paid more for their efforts than women.

Further, yes there are trades and professions in which the male gender is more highly represented than the female. However, here again, when women enter those professionsthey are often paid less for doing the exact same work. Moreover, when men enter occupations typically overrepresented by female workers, males get paid more to do those jobs too.

Now within that, of course there should be some incentive to stay at a company longer, perform at a higher level and bring more experience to bear. However, there should also be published pre-determined numbers for each of thoseattributes, rather than managers arbitrarily deciding they like one person better, or they have more in common with another person, so they compensate them more generously.

Fewer Women in Senior Management

This fallacy is in a way self-fulfilling. Fewer women are among the ranks of senior leadership, so fewer women earn senior management salaries. However, it has been shown that women have often been systematically excluded from those positions too.

So, on the one hand, people are saying women make less money because they don’t have high paying jobs. Howeverthe men controlling who gets those high paying jobs have been known to exclude women.

Because women have traditionally been passed over forthose positions, there are few female role models to which younger women can look for inspiration. This discourages women from even trying, which serves to perpetuate the disparity.

Women Leave Jobs to Have Children

The reality is women often have to choose between being a nurturing parent and working longer hours. However, in countries like Iceland, where policies governing parental leave encourage dads to spend time at home too, the gender pay gap is much less of a factor.

Icelandic parents get nine months of paid parental leave when they have a new child. The mother is afforded three months, the father is granted three months and the two of them get an additional three months they can apportion between them as they see fit. Thus, moms don’t have to sacrifice careers to have children because dads can stay home and help out too. And, according to the Harvard Business Review, this is just one of the ways Iceland is working to eliminate gender discrimination in pay.

No Evidence of Separate Pay Scales

Who in their right mind would publish such a thing in today’s litigious world? However, when you don’t make your criteria for establishing pay absolutely transparent, when you make it a job-ending offense for employees to discuss salaries with one another and when you tie salary offers to previous salary histories, you are creating a de facto two-tier system.

The resulting lack of transparency makes it possible to perpetuate compensatory inequalities. You’re making it easy to pay people differently when you tell workers they’ll lose their jobs if they disclose their pay. And, you’re bringing the pay discrimination a woman suffered at her previous job forward when you tie her employment offers to her salary history.

These are just four of many things people overlook about the gender pay gap. Whether out of a fundamental lack of understanding, or willful disregard, it ultimately hurts us all in the form of increased poverty rates, lower tax revenues and diminished company morale.


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Our women don’t want to settle for anything but the best. They understand that success is a journey involving personal growth, savvy optimism and the tenacity to be the best. We believe in pragmatism, having fun, hard-work and sharing inspiration. LinkedIn

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