Gender Wage Gap: Fact or Fiction?

Equal Pay Day signifies how far into the year a woman must work to earn what men earned in the previous year.  This year, Equal Pay Day was on April 14 – which means there is an additional four months of work for women just to break even with men.  The gender wage gap has been a huge issue globally for over the past century.   From America to Australia to the European Union, everyone struggles to understand why the gender wage gap still exists today.  President Obama and Vice gender-pay-gapPresident Joe Biden are both in agreement that the gender wage gap needs to change.  On Equal Pay Day this year, Joe Biden posted on Twitter saying, “Equal pay for equal work. It’s common sense.  It’s also overdue. Let’s close the gap & let’s do it now.”  However easy it may seem, women working full time in America earn 77 cents for every dollar men make.  Worldwide, people use the Internet to spark up debates, and many bloggers and users compare and contrast the myths and the truths of the gender wage gap.

The National Women’s Law Center posted in April of 2006 about how the wage gap is still an issue today despite the acts meant to protect workers.  They illustrate their authority on the topic by stating facts to bolster their message, and crafting a professional posting on the National Committee on Pay Equity’s website.  The statistics presented such as, that merging the wage gap would cut poverty by about half were astounding.  Other statistics showed the unexplained reasoning behind differences in pay while both the male and female employees had the same education background and workload.  Statistics like this showed the severity of the sex discrimination in the workplace.  The motive of the post was to inform the reader about the Paycheck Fairness Act, and how it will remove loopholes in the current legislation.  The Paycheck Fairness Act, introduced by Hillary Rodham Clinton in the U.S. Senate, would create a stronger barrier to wage discrimination by improving the Equal Pay Act remedies, making it easier to bring class action Equal Pay Act claims, improving the collection of pay information, prohibiting employer retaliation, closing the loophole in an employer defense, eliminating the same “establishment” requirement for equal pay, allowing voluntary employees to compare wages, increasing training etc., and halting rollbacks and retreats by the department.  While some disagree, this post takes the stance that the wage gap is a clear example of discrimination.

In an article from the Huffington Post entitled Wage Gap Myth Exposed—By Feminists, written by Christina Hoff Sommers, the 77 cent statistic is called into question as Sommers examines more into the American Association of University Women (AAUW) as well as National Women’s Law Center and calls out research that she feels may be misleading about the gender wage gap. There is one article from the National Women’s Law Center that Sommers uses a quote to counter their argument that says, “In fact, authoritative studies show that even when all relevant career and family attributes are taken into account, there is still a significant unexplained gap in men and women’s earnings”. Sommers instantly shuts this statement down and begins explaining why this gap is not as unexplained as National Women’s Law Center described. This sets for a perfect example of how blog feuds begin. Sommers uses cursory hyperlinking to link the reader to the article that she calls into question. This is an effective method when engaging in a blog fight because it gives you access to see exactly what the other writer wrote and make your own judgement on the topic.


Graph comparing men and women wage gap


There are many critics who don’t believe the wage gap exists. Two of them include Mark Perry and Andrew Biggs who wrote The ’77 cents on the Dollar’ Myth About Women’s Pay which has been argued against by other bloggers. They believe the claims are fundamentally misleading and economically illogical using marriage and children, women’s chosen field of study, and high-risk jobs to support their argument.

Perry and Biggs use the issue of marriage and children as a big reason why women are paid less. They believe that there’s only a 4% difference in pay between single women and men and the bigger wage gap doesn’t appear until children enter the picture. Because child care takes women out of the labor market, they are less experienced when they return which widens the wage gap between men and women. They also say that working mothers also look for jobs that provide greater flexibility and believe that those jobs pay less.

Another point they make is the types of jobs chosen by men and women. They say that women often choose fields of study that pay less like sociology, liberal arts, or psychology while men choose higher paying fields like finance, accounting, or engineering. Also, men make up most of the workforce for high risk and high compensation jobs like loggers, iron workers, and lawyers. Because those jobs are high risk and high compensation, they offer a higher salary.

In conclusion, they don’t believe the wage gap exists because of marriage and children, women’s chosen fields of study, high-risk jobs, on top of other points. The main point they make about the wage gap is how illogical it is because if the wage gap really existed, profit-oriented companies could dramatically cut costs by replacing their male employees with females which they haven’t done so it couldn’t possibly be true.


President Obama took to Twitter the truth on the wage gap

In response to Mark J. Perry and Andrew G. Biggs’s article The ’77 Cents on the Dollar’ Myth of Women’s Pay, Jillian Berman disagrees that the gender wage gap is a myth and provides facts that verifies its existence.  Berman’s first disagreement with the article is that the wage gap exists during all levels of women’s working careers and not just when they decide to get married or have children. Shedoes acknowledge the fact that the pay gap increases if women do choose to make those life choices but says that doesn’t matter; women still make less on average than men with the same types of degrees and jobs. Another valid point she makes is that there are policies put in place such as paid family leave and subsidized child care that are supposed to help out women by minimizing the “mommy penalty”. Because most all major businesses participate in these types of programs, and women still make less on average than men do, it goes to show that other factors besides becoming a wife and or a mom play a role in creating the difference in pay.

Another claim Berman disagrees with is that the types of jobs women typically choose are ones that pay less. Jobs that are coined as women’s work are undervalued according to Berman. One historical example that highlights women’s work as undervalued is that secretaries used to be a profession dominated by males until businesses realized they could get women to do the same job for less. After that transition took place women were viewed as less valuable not only in that profession but throughout the workplace.

Lastly, Berman says even when women in the workplace do get jobs mostly dominated by men, studies show that they are given raises and promotions less often. This is because women are seen as more pushy and demanding when inquiring about advancements as opposed to men being determined and motivated. A statistic that exemplifies this fact is that Women make up just 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, but 48.6 percent of the labor force overall. These unfair stereotypes of women are making it harder for them to advance in the workplace and are holding them back from potential earnings confirming that the gender wage gap does indeed exist.


Comparing 77 cents to every man’s dollar

In another response to The ’77 Cents on the Dollar’ Myth About Women’s Pay article by Mark J. Perry and Andrew G. Biggs, Joshua Holland wrote the article Debunking the Myth of a Mythical Gender Pay Gap. Holland starts off his article calling Perry and Briggs out in the second paragraph immediately stating their flawed logic.

After Perry and Briggs rattle off a few statistics regarding why women are paid less, Holland responds saying, “The gender pay gap is very real, and there are complex reasons for its stubborn persistence.” Holland gives many interesting points that refute much of what Perry and Briggs have to say such as, “In 2001, Karen Kornbluh estimated that women’s earnings drop by 7.5 percent with a first child and 8 percent with a second.” What Holland wants to say is that many countries require a company to offer maternal leave if an employee has a child. However, in the US it is not required. It does not stop there; Holland takes many quotes directly from Perry and Briggs and exposes the errors they had made.

Just from the few excerpts from Debunking the Myth of a Mythical Gender Pay Gap, it is easy to see that Holland strongly disagrees with Perry and Briggs. Even some transitions seem to hold a little hostility. For example, “Perry and Biggs go on to argue… There are two problems with that.” It is not to the point of name calling but it seems Holland is trying to discredit Perry and Briggs.

 Holland keeps most of the argument tame and makes some very solid points. He includes many quotes and statistics from The ’77 Cents on the Dollar’ Myth About Women’s Pay and he is able to point out what was done wrong or overlooked in the opposing argument.wage-gap-infographic-220x130

The controversy for gender wage gap does not stop in the United States.  In fact, there is an online index called, The Global Gender Gap Index that was developed in 2006 to address the need for a consistent measure for gender equality.  Interestingly enough, no country in the world has achieved gender equality yet.  According to CNN Money, it will take another 81 years for the gender gap to close.  In the index, the United States ranked 65th in wage equality among the other 142 countries listed.  That being said, the highest ranked country for gender gap is Iceland, with Finland and Norway following.  Every country in the world is struggling to close in the wage gap, however the economic factors and political power play a big role in when that will change.

In conclusion, there is no doubt that gender wage gap stirs up a lot of controversy worldwide, especially on the Internet. Bloggers argue back and forth to try and make their point to their readers. Instead, it can create more blog fights. Blog fighting isn’t a bad thing – as long as the blogger can back up both sides of the arguments. The gender wage gap is clearly a topic that many people find interesting. This blog was able to point out both sides of the topic and compare with one another. Like Hillary Clinton has said,  “Women’s rights are human rights;” the fight towards equality will continue to be an issue in the world, just as blog fights will continue as well.

Written by: Katherine Kilian, Logan Drake, Angie Pi,

Colleen Mahoney, Mark McCord, Jake Jost

This entry was posted in Culture.