In the last twenty years, the percentage of women enrolled in institutions of higher education has steadily increased. In fact, today in the United States, 58 percent of college students are women. However, even though women’s qualifications on an academic level are exceeding those of men, there is still gender discrimination against females in the workplace. It may seem like blatant gender discrimination doesn’t exist in many cases. However, it is still very present at least as an underlying tone in the United States job market. One of the most critical areas that we can see this inequality is in the gap in wages between men and women doing the same job. The worst part about this issue is that although you might hear people talk about the problem, the pay gap has not improved in the last decade.
As a high schooler working a full-time job at a law firm this summer, for the first time I am experiencing what it is like to work mentally rigorous forty-hour weeks. I am a strong believer in gender equality and believe that if two people (no matter their sex) are working the same job, they should be equally rewarded. In addition, I live in an all-girl household with a hard-working single mother. Naturally, it seems unfair that even though she has the entire financial responsibility of providing for my sisters and me, she has to work 20 percent harder than a man in a similar situation for every dollar that she receives.
According to studies done by the White House and Harvard University, a full-time working woman earns 77-80 cents for every dollar a man in the same position earns. But that isn’t even the whole story. There are several factors that also play into the pay wage gap. Statistics show that the pay gap is much worse for women of color. For example, Hispanic women are paid approximately 53 cents for every dollar a white man makes. In the United States, the significance of the pay gap also varies from state to state. Even in the area of the country with the best pay equity—Washington, D.C.—women are still paid ten percent less than men. According to the American Association of University Women, the pay gap is also affected by age. On average, after the age of 35, the pay wage gap worsens by 15 percent.
All of this proves the problem still very much exists in the United States. It is now time to ask, “What can we do to close the wage gap?” Well, for starters, spreading awareness about the issue is very important because many people in America don’t think about it. Increased awareness will encourage women to advocate for themselves to close the gap and negotiate for fair pay in the future. Also, if more people are passionate about solving this issue, it will help start a movement to influence our leaders in government to make real change.
Another step toward eliminating the wage gap is to view women and men as equals. One way to do this is to create more balance in gender roles. As more companies provide paternity leave to men, this will increase men’s contribution to stereotypically “female” responsibilities like housework and childcare and reduce the weight of these responsibilities on women.
Overall, we need to encourage people to move past stereotypes and discrimination. Instead, we need to learn how to acknowledge contributions made to the workplace on an individual level regardless of gender, race, color, or age.
“Gender Inequality and Women in the Workplace.” Blog, News, and Events. Harvard Summer School, n.d. Web. Date accessed 18 July 2014.
“Did You Know That Women Are Still Paid Less than Men?” The White House. Whitehouse.gov, n.d. Web. Date accessed 17 July 2014.
Hill, PH.D., Catherine. “The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap (2014).” AAUW: Empowering Women Since 1881. American Association of University Women, n.d. Web. Date accessed 19 July 2014.