The Gender Pay Gap: 3 Reasons Why Women Still Get Paid Less

gender pay gap

As a woman entering the workforce, I’ve been faced with the fact that on average we still make 20% less than men. With sexism still very prevalent (i.e. all the men who yell crude things at me while I’m minding my own business walking down the street), the fact that workplace discrimination still reared its ugly head into the paychecks of many women was never something that surprised me. 

What did surprise me? The top reasons why.

Up until recently, I hadn’t given much analysis as to the specific reasons behind this prevailing pay inequality until one unruly evening of LA traffic that led me to a podcast rabbit hole. In the August 2018 episode by NPR’s Planet Money, Mind the Pay Gap, Cornell Economist Francine Blau draws upon decades worth of data to explain essentially why women still make 20% less.


1. Job Choice

According to data, the jobs we hold as women are less likely to be in higher paying career fields. Despite there being a recent trend of women entering these higher paying fields, the gender pay gap has continued to fall slowly among the highly skilled. Furthermore, women who do hold these top-of-the-corporate-ladder positions experience more trouble achieving the pay of men in the same positions.

Fresh out of college?

An internship is a good bet, but…

2. Child Care

While pregnant women often experience workplace discrimination in the form of “oh, they’re less dedicated to their careers,” in addition to employers being less keen to hire women who may need paid maternity leave, there’s a further explanation. Motherhood comes with a slew of responsibilities that require them to take time out of the workforce.

Thus, with a greater tendency to move in and out of the workforce for childcare, women spend less time at their jobs and are on average less experienced than men.

As a note, this now accounts for a smaller portion of the pay gap as women are now taking less time off of work to have children. Recently, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Arden, brought her 3-month-old baby to the United Nations General Assembly in September of this year, reminding us that new mothers can run countries. 

Image via Quartz

3. Issues of Negotiation

When women negotiate for higher pay, studies have shown they’re much more likely to receive a negative reaction, perceived as “overly aggressive” instead of ambitious.

In the workplace, the same qualities that make men “leaders” define women as “bossy,” just as men who display emotion are “dedicated and passionate,” while women are just “PMSing.”

Fun Fact

Female tear ducts are biologically smaller than those of men, so are bodies are literally built to cry more, even when we’re experiencing the same emotion as a man. 

Overall, Blau felt that these three reasons could be choices rather than blatant discrimination, although she noted that as to why women make certain choices can have much to do with sexism. However, she furthered her research anyways. 

Even after completely removing these three factors, women and men were still not equally being paid; “we found about 40% could not be explained by the variables that we were able to measure.” Essentially, 40% of the 20% pay gap cannot be explained by these three reasons: “so basically we found a woman with exactly the same characteristics or qualifications as a man would earn 8% less” (Blau).

So…what do we do now?

Knowing there’s a good chance that at least 8% of my pay will be taken from me just based on my gender, I’m pretty pissed. On average, journalists make around $40k a year: a loss of 8% translates to $3,200. Definitely enough for a good vacation or two…which is especially needed if we consistently have to deal with workplace sexism.

At the very least, we need the support of other women. Online forums such as Ellevate are great ways to access the encouragement we need as career women.

Connecting you to a community of ambitious, supportive working women, Ellevate holds live online forums with stories and advice from other working women, arranges in person meetup groups, and even has a thorough podcast series that delves into the issues we often experience in the workplace and throughout our careers.

Connect with women to truly ellevate yourself in your career!

As Blau put it, 

“another word for glass ceiling is discrimination.”

gender pay gap
gender pay gap
gender pay gap

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