“The wage gap is a statistical indicator often used as an index of the status of women’s earnings relative to men’s. It is also used to compare the earnings of other races and ethnicities to those of white males; a group generally not subject to race- or sex- based discrimination. The wage gap is expressed as a percentage (e.g., in 2004 women earned 77% as much as men) and is calculated by dividing the median annual earnings for women by the median annual earnings for men.” 1
The Wage Gap
Women make less money than men do. No, this is not an outdated article written during WWII, or an unfounded fanatical feminist’s rant. Right now, in 2007, women do not get paid the same as men. Keep in mind however; most of the statistics are on a national level, so they are an average. There are places where women earn as much as men, but as a whole, women are still not making what men are.
A Bit o’ History
During WWII there was a large increase in the amount of women in the workforce. As a result, in 1942 the National War Labor Board urged employers to voluntarily make adjustments in salary so that women who did comparable work in quantity and quality, received the equal male salary. Needless to say, employers ignored this request, and when the war was done, most of the women were pushed out of their new jobs to make room for the men returning from war (2).
Until the early 60’s, want ads in newspapers had separate listings for men and women. The higher-level jobs were listed almost exclusively under the “Help Wanted- Male section” and the identical jobs that were listed in both sections had a different pay scale for men and women. Between 1950 and 1960, women that had full-time jobs earned on average between 59-64 cents for every dollar that men earned (2).
The Equal Pay Act was passed June 10, 1963 and said that it was illegal to pay women lower rates for the same job strictly on the basis of their sex. Other factors such as education, seniority, or quality of work, could merit differences in pay scales. The act was improved and expanded during the next decade and between June 1964 and January 1971 back wages were paid totaling around $26 million were paid to 71,000 women (2).
Two landmark court cases served to strengthen and further define the Equal Pay Act:
Schultz v. Wheaton Glass Co. (1970), U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
- Ruled that jobs need to be "substantially equal" but not "identical" to fall under the protection of the Equal Pay Act. An employer cannot, for example, change the job titles of women workers in order to pay them less than men.
Corning Glass Works v. Brennan (1974), U.S. Supreme Court
- Ruled that employers cannot justify paying women lower wages because that is what they traditionally received under the "going market rate." A wage differential occurring "simply because men would not work at the low rates paid women" was unacceptable.
For more detailed explanation of this case CLICK HERE
~Women earned 59% of the wages men earned in 1963 and in 2002 they earned 76% of the wages men earned. That is an improvement of less than half a penny a year.~
There have been a variety of explanations offered to explain the blatant discrepancy in the actual policy of equal pay and the reality. One such explanation places blame on older women in the workforce. Some claim that since these women are from the “old school” they are “still subject to the attitudes and conditions of the past.” This hypothesis is further supported by the fact that women “coming of age in the 1990’s reflect women’s social and legal advances.” In 1997 for example, women under 25 who worked full time earned 92.1% of men’s salaries and women 25-54 made 74.4% of what men made (2). Higher levels of education increase the earnings of both men and women. However, the wage gap does not disappear at higher levels of education. Actually, at the highest levels of education, the gap seems to be at it’s greatest.
Within occupations the wage gap exists also. In a study for the Center for Gender Studies only four occupational categories were found in which women out-earned men; special education teachers, order clerks, electrical and electronic engineers and miscellaneous food preparation occupations.
Now of course some people out there are wondering about women that work part time and how that would affect the wage gap statistics. And though women are statistically more likely to work part time than men are, the wage gap statistics only include full time, year-round workers. And again, it seems that the wage gap increases as the number of hours women work increases. Women who work 41-44 hours earn 84.5% of what men do, and women who work 60 hours or more per week earn 78.3% of what men in the same category earn. And to earn promotions that may lead to higher paying jobs, it appears that women have to work longer for that. For example, women who become principals, on average, are teacher for three years more than men are (3).
Right now in a recent report published by the Vermont Commission on Women showed that women are “lagging behind men in several areas.” The commission highlighted women’s membership on corporate boards and wages as two concerns. In the corporate board where they are unpaid, women make up 37% of the membership, and only 24% of the paid boards. The non-profit or government boards where women are the majority tend to be ones that are traditionally considered to be “women’s issues,” such as family issues. Vicky Young, chairwoman of the Commission, states that in the corporate world, men are more likely to be thought of for board positions then women are (4).
As far as wages, women in Vermont earn about 83% of what men do, which is slightly higher than the national average. “But despite minor fluctuation, the wage gap in Vermont has remained relatively unchanged since 1999” (4).
However, an area where are doing well is in the state’s superior court system. The Superior Court bench in Vermont is nearly gender-balanced, thanks to the increase in number of judges from 11 to 14, not a decrease in number of male judges (4).
In the media, male reporters at the state’s newspapers and television news stations outnumber female reports almost three to two, with 66 male reporters and 43 female ones (4).
In the legislature, 10 of the 30 Senators are women and 57 of the 150 House of Representatives are women. Nation-wide, that is among the highest percentages of women in any general assembly, if not the highest. In the education field, women compose 90% of the teacher’s aides and 73% of the teachers; about 48% of the principals are women and 32% of the superintendents (4).
Something to Chew on...
“ Women have made enormous progress in the workforce since the Equal Pay Act, but the stubborn fact remains that four-and-a-half decades later, the basic goal of the act has not been realized” (2).
1."The Wage Gap." Infoplease. 2006. 30 Jan. 2007 <http://www.infoplease.com/ipaA0763170.html>.
2. "The Wage Gap." Infoplease. 2006. 30 Jan. 2007 <http://www.infoplease.com/spot/equalpayact1.html>.
3.Lips, Hilary M. "The Gender Wage Gap: Debunking." Womens Media. 2007. 28 Feb. 2007 <http://www.womensmedia.com/new/Lips-Hilary-gender-wage-gap.shtml>.
4. Porter, Louis. "Report: Women in Vermont Lag Behind." Times Argus 31 Jan. 2007. 2 Feb. 2007 <http://nlnewsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_action=print>.