Mark Twain once said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” When it comes to the gender pay gap, there seems to be a never-ending stream of statistics and data about whether there’s a pay gap, how much of one there is, and if there is one — what causes it.
In these debates about the gender pay gap, there’s an unspoken assumption by some people that maybe there actually is no issue with the fact that men and women get paid differently — so long as those reasons are because of the different choices that men and women make, their experience or education levels.
In 2016, women in America earned just more than about 80 percent as much as their male counterparts — $0.85 for every dollar earned by men. This is up from 79.6 cents in 2015, but this increase marks the first statistically significant annual increase since 2007.
In short, after controlling for pretty much everything that could be controlled for, there’s still a difference of 7% in total compensation between men and women that can’t be explained. Perhaps that remaining difference is due to discrimination or bias, but it’s hard to say. Moreover, this Fortune analysis points out just how complex the gender pay gap issue is. Just because something is “explainable” doesn’t mean it is not based or related to bias and discrimination.
In other words, do women opt not to study, and work in certain job titles, employers and industries because they are dissuaded by bias or culture there? If the answer is “yes”, just because there is an explanation doesn’t mean that explanation is perfectly benign. Moreover, does age and years of experience matter if two people are doing the identical job?
Progressive employers such as Salesforce, Intel, Apple and Accenture, among others have conducted internal gender pay audits. We don’t know the exact details of these audits but many have described the key to equalizing pay between men and women at their firms is to simply pay according to the job function performed rather than look at historical salaries, or other measures. The basic idea is that if you get a job, you should get paid what that job is worth irrespective of your education or years of experience.
Whatever the reason for the gender pay gap, sometimes we think it’s important to step away from the weeds and look at the bigger picture. Whatever the reason for average pay differences between men and women, I think most of us would do well to consider the fact that there is no country in the world where women make more than men.
Here are some current statistics to keep you abreast of where women stand (it's mostly* encouraging!):
The Equal Pay Act of 1963, which was signed by President John F. Kennedy, made it illegal to pay men and women working in the same place different salaries for similar work. American women's salaries have risen over 70% since the law was enacted. However, its goals have not been completely achieved for several reasons, including the difficulty of proving sex discrimination in pay policies.
Technically, no. The Equal Pay Act of 1963, signed by President Kennedy, made it illegal to pay women less than men for similar work. However, several factors have made it complicated to completely close the pay gap.
Yes. Australia has had a gender pay gap of between 14% and 19% for the last 20 years. Western Australia has the largest gender pay gap of any state or territory in Australia, with the gap hovering around 26% in 2015.
Many people believe America does not legally grant equal rights to all citizens on the basis of sex. That's why the Equal Rights Amendment, a proposed amendment to the U.S. constitution, has been designed. Its language would guarantee equal legal rights to all American citizens regardless of their sex, and seeks to end distinctions between men and women in terms of divorce, property, employment and some other legal matters.