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Pay gap growth: Why is the gender pay gap increasing?

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This guide outlines the alarming growth in the gender pay gap, and why it is getting bigger.

Women have had many obstacles to overcome in the workplace for a long time. With stereotypes ranging from the dim-witted, blonde, long-nailed secretary in the 1950s to the (still) heel-wearing bitch-of-a-boss, women have had to contend with it all. And in a society where women can do anything they set their minds to, it is shockingto hear that women are still undervalued in the workplace.

How wide is the gender pay gap?

Depending on who you ask, the gender pay gap is between 18% and 20% across industries, although it is narrower in the technology sector. And a new report from Glassdoor shows that the pay gap is shrinking, albeit slowly. Also, he says the unadjusted gender pay gap in the US is 21.4 percent, which means women earn, on average, $0.79 for every $1 men earned.

That’s a 2.7 percentage point drop in the unadjusted wage gap from three years ago (March 2016), according to Glassdoor. However, when controlled for variables such as age, education, experience, occupation, industry, location, year, specific company and job title, the adjusted wage gap in the US becomes 4.9% – a 0.5 percentage point retraction since 2016 .

And while the biggest differences in pay adjustments (where the pay gap between men and women are widest) are in media, retail, construction, repair and maintenance, and oil, gas, energy and utilities, those whose occupation is computer programmer saw the biggest pay gap shrink – down 16.7 percentage points, the report shows.

The gap widens, however, as women gain experience, according to a report by Hired. And a recent Women in Tech 2018 report from HackerRank shows that women in tech who are over 35 are 3.5 times more likely to be in junior roles than their male counterparts.

Larger companies like Salesforce, Intel and Adobe have made headlines to identify and rectify the pay gap in their workforces, and even smaller organizations like Instructure and Hired are conducting pay equity analyzes to ensure women and men receive equal pay .

Even with heightened awareness and interesting action, however, a number of persistent myths still hang about the gender pay gap, which Kristen Bellstrom debunks in a Fortune article, including the fact that 37% of men surveyed say that the gap does not exist.

What else can be done to address wage inequalities? In the United States, states like Oregon, Massachusetts and California have made it illegal to hire companies to ask for your salary history, which is a step in the right direction. Also, have a comprehensive compensation planning strategy that can ensure companies actually pay equal pay for equal work. Transparent pay structures and open conversations about what certain skills and experience are worth can also help.

Strengthening equal pay laws so that women have the tools needed to combat wage discrimination, increase the availability of childcare, provide flexible work arrangements, provide paid vacations and have union protections are general policies that will also help, accordingly with the National Center for Women’s Law. Employers, too, can act in their organizations, says the Glassdoor report.

Sharing salary information directly with candidates can be a powerful cultural differentiator in a tight labor market, which can also help to reduce the pay gap. While education and experience are becoming minor factors influencing the gender pay gap, occupational and industry selection remains a significant cause.

This suggests that employers should be consistently re-evaluating hiring channels to ensure they are attracting, hiring and retaining diverse pools of talent, according to the Glassdoor report.

As occupational screening is such an important factor in the pay gap, it is important that employers promote workplace policies that allow flexibility in working hours or paid leave, to ensure that men and women can balance family responsibilities and professionals.

“Knowing the facts about the gender pay gap is critical to helping close the gap. Combining knowledge with mobilizing valuable resources is the next step to ensure equal pay for equal work everywhere,” said Annie Pearl, senior vice president of Glassdoor and head of product and UX/design.

While we are still making progress, the reality is one: there is still a long way to go.

Gender pay gap growth is concerning

Nicole Mills, elaborates on statistics showing the gender pay gap has reached 18.2%; the highest it’s been in 20 years. But why, in a time when everyone is free to pursue any career they choose, is the gender pay gap between men and women still growing and not decreasing. Particularly since tasks performed on the job are not reliant on which gender performs them.

Noted writer and social commentator Eva Cox, discusses why gender prejudices are still a concern in the workplace and how it might be related to the gender pay gap. “The problem is that despite nearly 40 years of equal pay legality, there is still evidence that the valuing of jobs is inequitable because there are still gender prejudices operating, in defining merit and the value of jobs”.

It is strange to think that the dollar value of someone’s job can come down to them being male or female and this can influence ideas about “whose job it is”.

Cox discussed this as well, saying, “Pay equity is going backwards for a range of reasons but a big one is that there is increasing numbers of the feminized jobs in education, care, health and personal services and increased particularly high paid often masculinized jobs in mining”.

The idea that the monetary value of a job can come down to gender or a work being a “woman’s job” or a “mans job” is ridiculous because both genders have equal opportunities to enter any field of work they choose.

The family disadvantage

And while the gender pay gap may be the tip of the iceberg for workplace inequality, it is only one (of many) that can make women feel undervalued or unappreciated in the workplace.

It is also common to find companies reluctant to hire or promote women because they may fall pregnant and leave work to start their family.

And, while women do leave work to start a family, it is unfair to disadvantage and stigmatise them. Employers need to remember that women are just as talented and deserving of any job or promotion as a similarly qualified male counterpart.

Doing more with less

These points are further supported by Christine Dickason, who presents further evidence on why the gender pay gap needs to end. “…A survey conducted by Prudential Financial in 2012 found that more than half of American women are breadwinners in their households, meaning these women are forced to provide for their families with smaller paychecks”.

And with many women these days being sole or part bread-winners of the house, it is astonishing that we are expected to get by on less, when we may be doing exactly the same work as our male counterparts.

Mills also wrote that an 18.2 per cent pay gap means men earn an extra $282.20 per week or $14,726 each year on average. Women working in the female dominated health care and social assistance sectors have the largest gap at 30.7 per cent followed by financial and insurance services at 30 per cent.

But, whatever the reason for such a large gender pay gap and other unfair ideas about women in the workplace, the value of women in the workplacehas changed but hasn’t gone far enough yet.

About Rowena Nagy

Rowena Nagy is a Journalist at The Business Woman Media. A graduate in Journalism, Media and Communications, she is passionate about in writing, travel journalism, video journalism and Public Relations.

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