What is the gender wage gap?

Perhaps you have heard the term “gender wage gap” or “gender pay gap” and wondered what it is and if it could apply to you. Simply put, the gender wage gap is the gap between what men earn and women earn for similar work. You may find it hard to believe that women are still paid less than men for similar jobs in 2018, but it’s true.

The gender pay gap last year was about 80 percent, across the board. That means women made 80 cents for every dollar a man made in the U.S. Factors that affect the gender wage gap include:

  • Your field of work. Some fields have a larger wage gap, like the financial sector. Some have a smaller wage gap, like nursing. Unsurprisingly, fields where women traditionally dominate, like nursing, counseling and food preparation, have lower wage gaps.
  • The state you live in. The size of the gap can vary quite a bit, depending on your state. Local industries, demographics, and state laws all affect the wage gap. Luckily, California has some of the strongest laws and policies, and we are number one in the country for pay equity, but we still only have a pay ratio of 89 percent.
  • Your race or ethnicity. Unfortunately, race and ethnicity play a big role in wage discrimination and only compound the gender pay gap. Hispanic or Latina women are at the lowest end, earning only 53 percent of what a white man makes. Only Asian women have a better ratio than white non-Hispanic women.
  • Your family status. Women know that having children interrupts their careers, no matter what steps they take to try and avoid it. Statistics agree that these interruptions do affect women far more than men who have children.

What can you do to close the wage gap?

The first thing you need to know is the correct salary range for your job. You may feel uncomfortable talking about this with your co-workers, but the information is the only way to know if you are underpaid. Employers don’t want employees to discuss this, but a 2016 law in California says they cannot prohibit co-workers from talking about their salaries. Other places to look include websites like PayScale, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor.

If you decide you are underpaid, ask for a raise. Many tools exist to help you prepare for salary negotiations, so if you feel uncomfortable, study these tools or take a workshop. Having this conversation with your boss does not have to be a confrontation, but you have a legal right to express your concerns if discrimination is happening in your workplace.

The gender pay gap is real and has barely changed in the last 20 years. Future change is unlikely unless everyone, women and men alike, insists on change. Knowledge is the key to making a change, so know your rights. You’ve earned it.

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