Is gender pay gap in the US getting worse?
“Gender pay gap is real,” says US-based job search firm Glassdoor in its newest research. What makes this universally-known fact more bewildering is that it becomes worse every year, not only in poor or developing countries, in super economies like the United States.
In 2014, the United States finished 64th on World Economic Forum’s global rankings on wage equality. In 2015, however, the US managed to narrow the gap a little. According to Fortune last year, data from the US Census Bureau revealed that the pay gap between men and women have ranged from $11,000 to $12,000 since 2001, depending on various “key points” such as age, job description, and age bias.
Still, the US’ improved number is nothing better than that of other countries when “unexplained factor”—which Glassdoor presumed as “age bias”—comes into the picture. “The ‘unexplained’ part is less than half in every country Glassdoor Research looked at, suggesting overt discrimination alone does not explain most of today’s gender pay gap,” Glassdoor chief economist Dr. Andrew Chamberlain told ABC Australia.
Chamberlain also explained that “the sorting of men and women into different occupations” has remained the most “difficult to uproot” catalyst for salary gap. “[Such] is a factor that has little to do with overt bias and reflects complex social pressures that divert women into some professions and away from others,” he added.
This means that the US government’s efforts in eliminating the perceived gap remain inefficient, if not at all futile. For Bourree Lam of The Atlantic, the solution really lies in changing the laws governing pay, which includes radical alteration of compensation rates of employees. “[While] women now make up a third of lawyers and doctors, they’re still paid less than their male counterparts in those professions. Having more women in higher-paying fields won’t solve the problem if they aren’t compensated at the same rates as their male peers in those fields.”
However, she explained that despite many legal successes on making gender pay totally nonexistent, penalizing companies going against these laws is still pro-men. For instance, for an anti-pay discrimination lawsuit to surface, the complainant, which is the woman, needs to provide a sizeable amount of evidence to prove it, a daunting—and discouraging—task for a female worker who still needs to be a mother when she gets home. “The problem with legislating equal pay is that it puts the onus on female employees to bring lawsuits showing that they have been discriminated against,” Lee said.
Outside the United States
Still, women in the US is in a better condition compared with women employees in poor and developing countries. According to ActionAid, an international development agency, the cost of gender equality in workplaces in these areas is US$9 trillion annually, a number that is bigger than the combined GDP of France, Germany, and the UK.
“Women do not get the same employment opportunities as men, because they spend so much of their time caring for children, the sick and elderly, all work that is largely invisible and totally unpaid. In poor countries, women’s burden is increased by having to spend time on collecting fuel and water, and taking up the slack when governments cannot fund basic health and education services,” it said in its report.
Even companies expanding in distant shores understand this. Daniel Bland, CEO of US-based network extender firm 5BARz International (OTCQB: BARZ), said that discrimination on gender happens in every corner of the world. “Now that we are travelling across the globe to make our plug-and-play device available worldwide, it has become apparent to us how women are paid and treated differently despite having equal levels of education and experience with men.”
However, economists say that gender pay gap is also a result of an economic surge, especially in countries with patriarchal culture. “Prior to development, poverty-stricken families respond to income shocks by re-allocating resources to son. Development is also often accompanied by decreased maternal mortality and increased labor market opportunities for women, both of which may encourage parents to invest more in their young daughters,” wrote journalist Dwyer Gunn.
While countries like the US find it hard to realize the verity behind Kofi Annan’s “equality [should] be a prerequisite to development,” some are poised to prove it. Iceland, a constant leader in WEF’s gender equality rankings since 2000, is set to close its own gender pay gap in the years to come. The country, now 13 percent off closing its narrow pay gap, has given immense attention to women beyond their existence in the labor market. Here, women are treated as equally important and essential as men. One proof is that women have been ruling the country for the 20 of the past 50 years.
According to Saadia Zahidi of WEF, emulating Iceland is as easy as ensuring that the government is looking at their workers beyond their gender and that workers are capable of balancing their family and social obligations with their responsibilities at work regardless of their sexual category. The saddening part, though, is that this seemingly doable task has remained in the shadows of governments’ other “more important priorities” like progress and development.