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image for The Joke- Men and Women Are Unequal in Pay- It’s a Fact!

By Mark Carey

I’ll get to the point. Men are paid more money in comparison to women and they (men) do not want to admit it.  Specifically, the Wall Street Journal reported, “[b]road new data on wages earned by college graduates who received federal student aid showed a pay gap emerging between men and women soon after they joined the workforce, even among those receiving the same degree from the same school.  The data, which covered about 1.7 million graduates, showed that median pay for men exceeded that for women three years after graduation in nearly 75% of roughly 11,300 undergraduate and graduate degree programs at some 2,000 universities.  In almost half of the programs, male graduates’ median earnings topped women’s by 10% or more, a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from 2015 and 2016 graduates showed… Nationally, women across the workforce earn an average of 82.3 cents for every dollar a man earns, according to the Labor Department.” (WSJ Aug. 8, 2022).

I could not resist the applicability of the following song lyric to the persistent pay inequality issue female employees continue to experience,

“You get discouraged, don’t you girl? It’s your brother’s world for a while longer. We gotta dance with the devil on a river to beat the stream. Call it living the dream, call it kicking the ladder.   They come to kick dirt in your face to call you weak and then displace you after carrying your baby on your back across the desert… And the joke’s on them.” (Brandi Carlile, The Joke)

Several reasons were cited in the WSJ article for the pay disparity.  First, many “economists cite the so-called motherhood penalty–referring to the perception that mothers are less committed to their jobs– and say this affects hiring, promotions and salaries.” (WSJ Aug. 8, 2022).  We have seen these cases in our office and can confirm the persistent occurrence of the motherhood penalty at play in today’s workplace.  The unequal pay cases are unreported and underreported by female employees, primarily due to fear of retaliation and termination, and we suspect a lack of coworker pay data is to blame here. Management will cite the confidentiality of personnel files as an excuse, but this is only self-serving. It is in the employer’s best interest to keep employees from discovering pay data in the workplace, as this reduces the bargaining around salary compensation by all employees within a company. “‘Employers continue to argue that they need this flexibility to set pay after seeing the candidate pool in order to attract talent,’ says Seher Khawaja, a senior attorney at the Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund who is working on the law in New York State. ‘But research has shown that giving employers free range to set salary in this way is precisely what leads to discriminatory pay.'” (Source).

Today, younger employees under 30 now share their compensation data amongst themselves to catch employers engaging in unequal pay practices among female and male employees.  Cities like New York now require posting of salary ranges in job ads to reduce the pay inequality in hiring.

Second, the WSJ article reported, “[r]esearchers say women choosing careers sometimes internalize societal expectations about which jobs suit them.  Well-intentioned advisors and employers can steer women toward less lucrative options, based on assumptions about their aspirations.”  (WSJ Aug. 8, 2022).  This was a new angle that was previously unreported.

Third, the WSJ article argues that confidence plays a role in early career decisions and then site research that women are less aggressive than men in negotiating salaries or raises because they will appear too demanding.  Haven’t we gotten past this point yet–the continued propagation of the idea that women are demanding is demeaning and dehumanizing.  I would have to strongly disagree here on this cause. My experience with female clients reveals the opposite is true.  The majority of female employees know how to negotiate and do it better than men in my opinion.  The problem lies in the party on the other side of the negotiation- men, including some women who report to men. There is a systemic bias within each employer that men must be paid more than women. That is an undisputed fact according to the data in both of the surveys reported herein. The pay inequality persists because governmental agencies fail to police employer pay practices. If there exists no threat of getting caught, then there is no penalty to the employer and an increased incentive for profitability due to continued pay inequality.

However, there is other evidence that the pay inequality gap has decreased to zero in some metro areas but only for a short time period, reverting back to the statistical 80% counterpart comparison norms we see nationally. According to a recent Pew Research study, the “earnings parity tends to be the greatest in the first years after entering the labor market… The gender wage gap is narrower among younger workers nationally, and the gap varies across geographical areas. In fact, in 22 of 250 U.S. metropolitan areas, women under the age of 30 earn the same amount as or more than their male counterparts… In both the New York and Washington metro areas, young women earn 102% of what young men earn when examining median annual earnings among full-time, year-round workers. . . Nationally, women under 30 who work full time, year round, earn about 93 cents on the dollar compared with men in the same age range, measured at the median.”  But the study suggests that women will lose this level of parity with men as women age to 35-48, dropping the pay inequality to 80% of their male counterparts.  (See data on earnings and the gender gap for 250 U.S. metro areas).   

In 2021, the Pew Research Center wrote the following in an attempt to answer the question of why does a gender pay gap still exist, “[m]uch of this gap has been explained by measurable factors such as educational attainment, occupational segregation and work experience. The narrowing of the gap is attributed in large part to gains women have made in each of these dimensions. Even though women have increased their presence in higher-paying jobs traditionally dominated by men, such as professional and managerial positions, women as a whole continue to be overrepresented in lower-paying occupations relative to their share of the workforce. This may contribute to gender differences in pay.”

The aforementioned survey results reveal a sudden burst of improvement in the wage inequality issue in the 30 and under group in certain metro areas but the data then reverts back to the historical norms. Also, pay equality only reaches parity in coastal metro areas, leaving the disparity in place in a vast majority of the country.  Why and who controls this issue?  Men and the boys club that still prevails in this country. This is not fare, it is not equal and discrimination in pay continues.  Until we collectively address this important societal issue we cannot say that men and women are equal in the workplace in terms of pay.   We cannot say that the Equal Pay Act is effective to prevent pay inequality among female and male employees. Pay inequality nationally has remained unchanged at 80% for female employees over 30 years of age for more than three decades and will not change. 

A simply solution exists.  All companies must reveal and make transparent compensation practices for all employees, not just new hires. This rule making should occur at the national level through the U.S. Department of Labor and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Younger employees under 30 have already demonstrated their ability to bypass management’s wall of secrecy on pay by openly sharing their salaries with one another in order to force management to reconcile their pay practices.  Once employees start to share their pay data, they will achieve more in the form of pay increases vs. any benefit obtained by not revealing their pay data.  Why keep your pay data secrete and from whom?  There is no benefit to keeping this information private. Stop it. Say your pay!

If you would like more information regarding this topic, please contact Carey & Associates, P.C.

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