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The Gender Pay Gap is So Much Worse Than We Thought

Posted: June 16, 2017

The gender pay gap is so much worse than we thought.

Gabriela Montell, The Chronicle of Higher Education 

The wage gap between college-educated men and women starts small, but it snowballs significantly over time, the economists Erling Barth, Claudia Goldin, Sari Pekkala Kerr, and Claudia Olivetti write in an article in the Harvard Business Review. By his early 40s, the average male grad takes home a whopping 55 percent more than the average female grad, the researchers found.

The reason? (Hint: if you think it’s primarily because women “choose” low-paying careers, guess again.) Marriage and motherhood — or, more precisely, the traditional gender roles women tend to adopt after tying the knot and having kids — are the pivotal factors, the researchers say. A woman’s earning power falls after she marries, thanks to a catch-22, Claire Cain Miller explains in a related article in The New York Times. Because she already earns less, it might seem sensible for a wife to put her husband’s career before her own, at least temporarily, Ms. Miller notes. But that’s where things cascade.

More often than not, it’s the wife who moves for her husband’s job (often hurting her career prospects in the process) and shoulders the bulk of the household and child-care duties, writes Ms. Miller, who is a Times correspondent. (The lack of parental leave and child-care policies in the U.S. doesn’t help any.) That in turn makes her more likely to scale back her hours (though even when she doesn’t, heremployer will pay her less on the presumption that she might), she writes. All of which undermines her long-term earnings potential (and any hope of recouping her losses) and fosters more gender bias. It’s enough to make a woman’s head spin.

The gap is widest for college-educated women in high-paying jobs, the economists say, since those positions pay more and put a premium on face time and fixed hours. (The pay gap for less-educated women expands with age, too, but less so only because men without college degrees lack the higher pay prospects of their more-educated male peers, the researchers note.) Their findings suggest that short of women staying single and childless, the keys to greater pay parity might lie in more flexible work hours, opportunities to work remotely, and a fairer labor division at home, Ms. Miller concludes.

Sally Hubbard, a legal journalist at Slate, would agree. Her biggest career break wasn’t a promotion or a job offer, but when her spouse took the lead at home, she writes in a recent column: “My husband left his law firm job to start his own firm from home. I knew the change would be good for him, but I had no idea how good it would be for me,” she explains.

Of course, to fight gender pay discrimination a woman needs to know when it’s happening in the first place. That’s where ending taboos on sharing pay information (prohibitions on doing so have long been illegal, as NPR notes) and promoting transparency come in, Kristin Wong suggests in a New Yorkmagazine article. She notes that shady employment practices — including gender bias — tend to thrive on secrecy. (Witness the recent Labor Department suit against Google, she adds.) Disclosing pay data, meanwhile, looks increasingly like a win-win scenario for employees and employers, she notes, pointing to studies showing that employees work harder and collaborate better when salaries are public.

The good news is more cities and states are introducing legislation that bars employers from penalizing workers who discuss pay and prohibits hirers from asking for salary histories.

Another study circulating online suggests that if men had more daughters, there might be greater parity, since fathers of girls tend to treat women better in the workplace, The Washington Post reports. Harvard University researchers compared venture capitalists with and without daughters and found that the former were 24 percent more likely to hire a female investment partner, the Post notes. What’s more, those who did fared better financially, the newspaper adds. While this isn’t the first study to suggest that dads of girls are more pro-equality, it does show that diversity is the reason these firms are more profitable. What seems like positive news on the surface, though, may seem less so on further reflection, Lucia Peters says in an article on Bustle: “Men shouldn’t need to have daughters in order to want to promote gender equality in the workplace and at home. It’s yet another reminder that our culture so frequently values women only insofar as they have relationships to men.”

The workplace is even less equitable for black women.

A new report from the Institute of Women’s Policy Research confirms that African-American women, hit by the double whammy of sexism and racism, really do get shafted in the workplace, an article on Slate notes. What’s more, unlike many of their white counterparts, black women are more likely to work full time and less likely to have high-earning husbands or partners to help carry the financial load, the article says.

Category : General