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Wage gap epitomizes stagnation in gender equality efforts

Grace Hamilton
In recent decades, there have undoubtedly been marked strides in advancing women’s rights. Even so, gender discrepancies in wages persist and is indicative of entrenched sexism.

A few weeks ago, an email dropped in my inbox with the long-awaited, “It is with great pleasure we offer you a position for the 2023 summer season.” In my offer letter, I received a base rate of $18 per hour. My boyfriend, who later received an offer for the same job, was offered a base rate of $20 per hour – a $2 disparity.

With very similar work experience for the same position of junior camp counselor, I couldn’t help but chalk up the wage discrepancy to gender. Now, I will bargain with my manager to receive the same pay as my male co-worker. As a woman, this experience is commonplace. The gender wage gap is very much an actuality that symbolizes the arbitrary, outdated reality to which women are often confined.

According to the U.K. Parliament, the median pay for all employees in the U.K. stood at 14.9% less for women than for men in April 2022. Yet, according to a survey of over 8,000 Americans by Survey Monkey, 46% of men and 30% of women believe the equal pay gap is a fabricated and illegitimate issue.

While some argue that median statistics fail to account for differences in choice of profession – such as maternal leave or other factors – women are generally offered less compensation for the exact same work.

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Arguably the best empirical evidence for the resulting gap is a 2012 study conducted by Yale University. Their methodology involved sending two identical resumes to 127 research position employers, changing only the name to either traditionally masculine or feminine. They concluded that the scientists were more likely to hire the male applicant and offer him a starting wage higher by $4,000.

While this study may not offer broad-sweeping statistics about all workplaces, it emphasizes the internalized gender biases with which employers operate.

Gender pay gap by grace_hamilton

There have undoubtedly been marked strides in advancing women’s rights in recent decades. Exercising the right to vote, increased legislation shielding freedom from discrimination and an influx of women assuming leadership positions is indicative of a shift from the patriarchy. 

Progress is far from linear. The fight for women’s rights requires ongoing engagement. With the presence of the gender pay gap, women must scale additional rungs on the ladder to achieve at the same rate as men. In fact, women in the U.S. are paid 82 cents for every dollar paid to men, according to NPR.

To combat this blatant gender disparity, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 was codified in the U.S., rendering it illegal to intentionally discriminate against women with unequal wages. In the name of accountability, an employer would be convicted if they were discovered to be paying a woman less than a man on the grounds of equivalent experience and seniority. 

The gender pay gap emanates from sexist ideals entrenched in fundamental tenets of our society. Sexism manifests in sexual harassment, misogynistic microaggressions and systematic underestimation. Considered alongside the myriad forms of sexism, the gender pay gap presents a tangible area to target in mitigating gender discrimination.

On a macroscopic scale, it is imperative for companies and governments to continue implementing policies enabling female workers to discuss wages and advocate for equal pay. It is similarly crucial for employers to increase transparency by displaying wage data and trends. On the microscopic level, building incentives for both men and women to take childcare leave is essential to combat the pay gap. 

It’s 2023. Bigotry – in any form – is unacceptable, particularly when it manifests in the gender pay gap. If women perform equally to their male co-workers, they must receive equal pay. Girls, especially those in high school, must understand the importance of standing up for themselves in instances of unequal pay. Women are just as capable as men. It’s time that fact is reflected in wages.

This story was originally published on The Standard on March 16, 2023.