Explaining the Gender Wage Gap

Are women treated as equals in America? Most Americans agree that women have made many advances in the last century, but the gender wage gap proves that women are still fighting for equality. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2017, women made 81.8 cents for every dollar a man makes. These study results indicate that women must work 47 more days than their male counterparts for the same annual income for the same annual income. During women’s history month, it is important to highlight the continuing inequality women are dealing with in society.


Some people argue that the reason there is a gender wage gap is that women choose different occupations than men. Contrary to this popular belief, a Bloomberg study found that women and men are choosing the same majors, but men are choosing the higher occupations within the major. For example, there is equal distribution of Biology majors among both genders, but men tend to choose to continue their education to go into a higher paying role, such as dentistry, while women go into teaching or nursing. Dr. York, a professor in Economics at Meredith who teaches Gender and the Economy, explained that one of the factors contributing to this phenomenon is societal pressure. Certain occupations offer more flexibility for working mothers, so women are incentivized to enter these professions. Particular professions that are suitable for mothers include teaching, nursing, working in part-time retail and being a librarian. Society puts the weight on mothers to bear the responsibility of child-rearing and taking care of the household chores, which in turn influence a woman’s occupation decision.


So, do men earn, on average, more than women do due to choice or the expectations of the social order? There is no definite answer to this question, but it is important to remember that women are usually their families’ caregivers and as a result must have more flexible, which are often lower-paying jobs. Dr. York wrote an opinion piece on CNN explaining the need to have equal pay and equal allocation of household chores. Dr. York wrote that men spend an additional 40 more minutes in leisure time every day compared to women, which is mainly due to the fact that women spend more time on chores.


There are many misconceptions about what the gender wage gap means. In an interview with Dr. York, she gave more clarification to help define the gender wage gap. Dr. York defines the gender wage gap as a calculation of “women’s pay as a percentage of men’s pay.” Currently, the gender wage gap is 81.8%, but Dr. York mentions that this calculation does not mean that every woman is making 81.8% of what a man makes. This is an average across all occupations, industries, age categories, race/ethnic categories, educational statuses etc.” Dr. York’s goal is to have the gender wage gap be 100%, suggesting a need for a lot of improvement; the silver lining is that women have made a lot of advancements since the late 70s, when the gender pay gap was 62%.


Mothers are expected to take time off of work to come to their children’s aid. When children are sick, typically the mother has to take off of work to take care of her child. When a woman gives birth, she needs to take off from work to take care of their newborn. Fathers hardly never take off as often as mothers do, which then puts woman at a disadvantage in the workforce. Since women have to take off more time from work and hold a more flexible and often lower-paying job, it is harder for them to advance in the workforce compared to their male counterparts who are considered to be more reliable.


Although women have come a long way since early 1900s, they still need to fight for equal allocation of domestic chores. Since women are disproportionately spending more time in unpaid work than men, this distorts the gender wage gap, indicating there needs to be more emphasis on equal allocation of household chores. Dr. York recommends organizations offer more work-life balance to all employees to encourage more integration among occupations, which would “help narrow the pay gap.” To learn even more about the gender wage gap, you can search on YouTube for Dr. York’s Meredith Minute on this topic by searching for “Explaining the gender pay gap Meredith Minute Anne York.” During Women’s History Month, we should start combatting the idea that women are expected to bear the responsibility of taking care of children and household chores, and instead put equal responsibility on both males and females.


By Ashley Ricks, Staff Writer

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