equal pay day wage gap graph

The Continuous Struggle With the Gender Pay Gap

equal pay day wage gap graph

My first run-in with the gender pay gap was at my first corporate job after being told that my team would be laid off.


While venting our frustrations one of my male coworkers said, “I applied for a job but I’m not taking a cent under $55,000. Then I’d be paid less than what I’m being paid here!”


I sat silently while doing mental math in my head. I was paid $48,000 doing the exact same job he did. He had a couple more years of experience than I did, but I didn’t think that constituted a $7,000 difference. I said nothing, thinking that since we were being laid off any way, it didn’t matter.


Another encounter I had was at a separate company where my supervisor, after hearing me ask a coworker about her salary range, called me into his office and told me that “Salary information is confidential and only HR should know what an individual makes.”


I apologized and went back to my desk. Two months later, a new employee was hired, and I heard through office talk that he was being paid $2 more an hour than I was, despite our roles being very similar. I didn’t know how to bring this up with my manager without getting my (female) coworker in trouble, so I said nothing. I worked there for another month before agreeing with my supervisor that I wasn’t the right fit for their culture.


Many often argue that the pay gap is a myth as it is illegal to pay women less than men. However, when women encounter the pay gap, it’s never framed as “you are paid less because you are a woman.” Instead, it is hidden behind bias, and pay secrecy policies that are meant to keep women in their place.



What Causes the Pay Gap?


Studies show that men are more likely to be hired for higher paying jobs. When women are offered these higher paying jobs, they’re generally offered less money than their male counterpart. This tends to be because hiring managers can unconsciously see women as less competent or with less mentoring potential than a man. In an AAUW STEM hiring experiment, employers hired lower-performing men over higher-performing women for mathematical work.


Pay Secrecy Policies:

Like myself, most women are discouraged from talking about salary, despite it being illegal to prohibit private sector employees to discuss wages.

Stopping employees from discussing salary allows companies to continue pay discrepancies across the board.


Women are Underrepresented:

In 2017, women made up almost two-thirds of the workforce in the 40 lowest-paying jobs (such as personal care aides or fast food workers), but only made up 37% of the workforce in the 40 highest-paying jobs. This is because women are discouraged from entering these fields, whether through micro-aggressions or harassment.


“It’s women’s work”:

“Women’s” jobs are paid less precisely because women do them. Often times jobs like childcare or house cleaning are seen as something women already do “for free.” Thus paying them for this work is more a courtesy than an actual wage.


The Motherhood Tax:

Mothers are paid an average of 7% less than fathers per child. The negative stereotype that comes with motherhood hurts a mother’s job and salary prospects and increases the gender pay gap. Studies show that employers saw mothers as less competent and less likely to be hired.


What Can We Do To Close The Gap?

I had never been taught the importance of negotiating my salary or talking to coworkers about what we’re getting paid. I feared being fired if I asked for a raise. My family needed me to have a job and I thought that even if I was being paid less, it was better than being paid nothing.


I know now that thinking that way is wrong. Especially as a Latinx woman, it’s my job to talk about salary. Not only for myself, but so future Latinx generations don’t get paid .54 cents to every dollar a man makes.


By continuously bringing these injustices to light, we keep the gender pay gap from being swept under the rug. Use your voice for every Equal Pay Day.


If you’re an employer or hiring manager, evaluate your hiring process and internal bias. Find how you can make jobs more accessible to women.


If you’re an ally, bring it up when something looks off. If someone tells you that “women aren’t applying” tell them to fix that.


And women, talk. Talk about how much money you make and how much you want to make. If you know a woman is being paid less than they’re worth, let them know. Our most powerful asset in this fight is our voice. Don’t let anyone take that away from you.

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