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The Truth About the Gender Pay Gap

By Contributing Author

That there is a significant disparity between the compensation men and women receive for the same work is a generally accepted truth. Currently, the gender pay gap comes in at an average of 18 cents per dollar. 

In other words, women are paid 82 cents for every dollar men earn. However, it goes deeper than just take-home pay. The truth about the gender pay gap is it affects many different aspects of a woman’s life in the United States.

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More Student Debt

A quick look around any college campus in the country — before the pandemic struck — would confirm there are more women pursuing college degrees than men. As wonderful as that might sound, it also means women hold most of the outstanding student debt in this country. 

According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), $929 billion of the nation’s $1.54 trillion in student debt is owed by women. Meanwhile, because they are paid less when they graduate, repaying that debt is more of a burden on them. In fact, it takes women two years longer on average to pay off student loans, owing primarily to the pay gap.

Less Money for Retirement 

Lower lifetime earnings also translate into fewer dollars to put away for retirement. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2019, women’s pension income was about 76.2 percent of their male counterparts. Their Social Security payments were but 80.2 percent of disbursements to men and their overall retirement income was 70.5 percent of that afforded males.

 Each of these anomalies can be traced directly to the fact that women are paid less overall. In other words, the gender pay gap follows women beyond their careers into retirement as well. 

Slower National Economic Growth

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research found pay parity would have resulted in $512.6 billion in added income for the nation. Moreover, addressing this issue would reduce poverty by half in the families of working women. 

This is particularly troubling when you consider the fact that women are either the primary earners or contribute heavily to the income streams of nearly 2/3 of the households in the United States. Simply put, the gap is inflicting damage upon women and their families, as well as the entire U.S. economy. 

Racial Disparities Are Even More Profound

Latinas are hit the hardest, earning 55 percent of what their white male counterparts are afforded for the same work. Moreover, this is true at every educational level; from high school diplomas all the way up through advanced degrees.

The average African American woman must work 19 months to earn what a comparably educated and experienced white male gets in one year. This works out to be approximately 63 percent less, which is also broader than the overall gender pay gap. Ironically, African American women are more highly represented in the national workforce than women of all other ethnicities. 

African American women and Latinas are more likely to hold low wage jobs. However, even within that category white men are paid more. 

Asian women fare slightly better, earning 89 cents to the dollar, while Pacific Islander females get 61 cents and Indigenous women are paid 57 cents to the dollar.

Contributing Factors

The long held workplace taboo around discussing salaries makes it easier for employers to perpetuate the gap. After all, you tend to keep quiet about it if you know you’ll lose your job if you’re found discussing pay with colleagues. 

This is amplified by the fact that employers routinely request prior salary histories to consider when making employment offers. Collectively, these practices, when combined with the traditional undervaluing of the work of women, societal bias against working mothers and gender biases in general, serve to perpetuate the issue. 

The simple truth about the gender pay gap is companies must work to include pay equity analysis as a core part of their annual compensation reviews and take decided steps to correct these disparities. While there has been progress in this regard over the years, the AAUW estimates the pay gap will remain in place until 2093 at the current rate of progress. 



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