Actress Amy Adams recently declared that she doesn’t “want to be a headline anymore about pay equality,” but with the gender pay gap persisting as we approach 2017, the sad reality is that this very quote did become a headline. Adams joins countless other celebrities and activists who are speaking out on the issue, yet despite increased media attention, unequal pay is still very much a glaring and present disparity.
New research from PayScale.com helps to show the divisions between men’s and women’s pay and job levels in America, revealing that in 2015, the median pay for women was $44,300, a whopping 77% less than the men's median of $58,000. In 2016, the gap actually increased, with the median for women dipping below 75% the corresponding men's figure ($44,800 vs. $60,200). The report analyzes data collected from more than 1.8 million workers between October 2014 and October 2016.
There are two principal reasons of this enormous disparity. First, men tend to occupy significantly higher and more well-paid positions than women. Second, even when differences in position and length of experience are accounted for, men enjoy somewhat higher pay than similarly situated women.
PayScale also asked approximately 80,000 respondents whether they feel their gender has kept them from receiving a raise and/or promotion. Not surprisingly, only 3.5% of males but 18.5% of females answered in the affirmative.
Gender Gaps in Job Level
Across all age groups (those surveyed were between 20 and 65 years old), there is a higher percentage of women than men in “individual contributor level” jobs (the lowest job level included in the survey). That gap widens with age. For 20- to 25-year olds, 77% of men surveyed and 78.4% of women occupied such positions. However, by age 60-65, 44.5% of men and 60.6% of women continued to work at this level.
As you might expect, the tables turn as the job level increases. The percentage of men occupying higher level positions - whether “manager or supervisor level,” “director level,” or “executive level” - is higher than the percentage of females in those roles in nearly every single age group. While the disparities start out relatively small for 20- to 25-year-olds (21.1% of men and 19.6% of women were in “manager or supervisor level” jobs), they increase with age (40.5% men to 32.4% women for 40- to 45-year-olds). The gap is even more pronounced with “executive level” positions, with men’s percentages more than doubling women’s at both age 40 to 45 and 60 to 65.
Gender Wage Gaps by Industry and by State
Across every single industry included in the report (21 industries total), the median pay for men is higher than that for women. The wage gap is smaller in industries such as Educational Services and larger in industries such as Finance & Insurance, but no matter the industry, there is a substantial gap. The same goes for U.S. states - in every state across the country, there’s a gender pay gap, but the severity differs. When the survey controls for position level and experience, the gap still persists in 48 states, significantly in some, though in Vermont and Connecticut, the survey indicates that women actually enjoy a very slight advantage over similarly situated men.
While PayScale.com’s findings are disheartening, we know that some companies are moving in the right direction. For example, Salesforce and Google are making concerted efforts to diminish the gender wage gap and are speaking publicly about their methods, which can inspire other companies to follow in their footsteps. Salesforce CEO Marc Beinoff put his company’s reputation on the line when he publicly announced that he was conducting a compensation audit. When he found that there was in fact a gender wage gap at his company, he implemented a plan (with $3 million in funding) to resolve it.
The gender wage gap is an issue close to our hearts at Fairygodboss, where our mission is to improve the workplace for women by increasing transparency regarding issues such as equal compensation for women and whether employers are generally female-friendly. Offering a place for women to anonymously review where they work based on their experiences regarding salary, maternity leave policies and whether men and women are treated equally (among other issues), Fairygodboss informs women who are making career decisions and also serves to inspire companies to improve their policies to attract and retain female employees.
There is much room for improvement, and there is still very much a gap that needs to be closed. In the meantime, we will continue to increase transparency surrounding the wage gap and other issues women face in the workplace. The first step toward diminishing the gap is making sure that people are well informed and able to knowledgeably participate in an open dialogue.
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