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Gender Wage Gap: Why It Needs To Be Closed
It’s a dark Thursday morning, 6:30 a.m to be exact. You are a single mother who just got home from working a double-shift to try and cover the expenses for groceries this month. You have a three- year old daughter named Maya who is very ill, but you can't pay for her medication. You are about to go to bed when your phone starts ringing, it’s the daycare.
“Hello?” you ask in a tired voice, the lady on the other end asks if you are Ms. Cumberland, Maya’s mother. As you begin to say yes you hear typing on the other end of the phone. “I am so sorry ma’am but we can no longer continue to care for Maya, you haven’t submitted payment for 3 weeks now.” explains the lady, sounding apologetic. You seem to be in shock as you beg for another week or so to get something arranged. The lady politely tells you that another week is unavailable, and you hang up the phone when you begin to cry; you don’t have anyone to take care of Maya while you're at work. “What do I do now?” you ask Maya, knowing that she’s too young to be able to respond. You go to bed, knowing that you have to go into work for third- shift tonight.
Later that night after you’ve slept, your alarm goes off in an annoying and creaky beep, letting you know that it is really old and probably needs to be replaced soon. When you sit up and start getting out of bed, the exhaustion hits you, you are visibly overworked but you push to wake yourself up. It suddenly hits you that you don't have anyone to keep Maya safe as you go into work and an enormous pile of guilt falls onto your shoulders. You stress to think of who could take care of her but come up empty, until the idea pops up in your mind. “No.. my boss will never allow that” you mutter to yourself, but what else can you do? It looks like you’ll need to take Maya into work with you.
As you put on your old, work stained Hilton Garden uniform, you hear Maya start to cry from the other room. You rush in to see what she needs and realize that she’s hungry. “I’m sorry baby, you’ll have to wait until we get to work, I'm sure they’ll have some food for you there.” you explain to her, but this only seems to make her cry more. You sigh and head back to put your hair up before you pack up and head to work.
You go into work hoping that you are on cleaning duty, just to find out that you are at the front desk. “Great, now where am I keeping Maya” you mutter to yourself as you power on the old hotel computer to start checking people into rooms. You sigh as someone walks in the door, as you begin to welcome them you realize that it’s your boss, Mr. Schaffer. You try to hide Maya but he quickly notices, “Ms. Cumberland, is that your daughter?” exclaims Mr. Schaffer. As you begin to apologize and explain yourself, he firmly states “meet me in my office during your lunch break.” and walks away. It doesn’t take much for you to realize that you’re in trouble.
30 minutes later, while on lunch break, you walk into his office. It is a dimly- lit room with a singular desk in the middle of the room and a few picture frames on the walls. The walls are painted an off colored yellow, you glance around checking your surroundings before he tells you to sit in one of the dark blue cushioned chairs on the side of his desk facing the door. You begin to explain why you brought her into work with you as he cuts you off saying “I don't want to hear it. You know you are not allowed to bring your children into work. You’re fired.”
These are the effects of the gender wage gap, many women out there become overworked day and night just to earn enough money to keep themselves and family members in good health as long as paying for shelter.
The gender wage gap is when you have two individuals (a female and a male) and the female individual gets paid less for doing the same job as the male individual. This has become a growing issue in the U.S. due to the need for women equality and the ever growing economy. According to recent studies by the official Government Accountability Office (GAO), “Women earned an estimated 82 cents for every dollar that men earned (an overall pay gap of 18 cents on the dollar)” (GAO article highlight 2). This, what seems like a small gap, adds up to be a lot. This results in women having to work harder for longer to be able to provide for children, loved ones, personal health, house and car mortgages, and basic needs such as food. This lack of equal pay, “adds up to about $417,000 in lost wages over a 40-year career, according to the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC). The NWLC estimates that it would take about 12 years of extra work for women to match men’s earnings”(CNBC). The gender pay gap can honestly be solved using a few simple solutions so why does it still exist? U.S. congress should strengthen legislation laws to guarantee gender wage fairness because discrimination towards individuals based on gender is a violation of basic human rights.
A common belief is that activists discontinued their fight against the wage gap because of the Covid- 19 pandemic and the amount of jobs that were lost due to it. Even though the effects of the pandemic affected everyone, “The women missing in this wage gap are the low-paid, part-time workers who felt the impacts of Covid the hardest” (CNBC). Many of these women even have to miss work due to “finding affordable child care” and “other family or personal obligations” ; these women end up “only [having] time for part-time jobs.” (CNBC). Due to this + the pandemic, “Women have lost more than 1.4 million net jobs since February 2020 and make up close to 70% of job losers since the start of the crisis.” This means that the pandemic took many lives as well as making it harder for women to get basic personal needs, causing them to lose their jobs, making the pay gap wider again.
The mainstream effect of the gender wage gap is that women end up working almost their whole lives to provide for their own. A study shown in an article written by CNBC’s journalist Morgan Smith shows that this wage gap “exists in 94% of occupations … and some people will think it’s just a few pennies on the dollar, but over a lifetime, that adds up to some women never being able to retire, invest in a home or afford their kids’ college tuition” (Smith 4.) This outlines the urgency in allowing women the same pay because, “If companies fail to close the wage gap, the average woman stands to lose about $10,435 each year, which could have paid for 9 months of rent, 13 months of groceries or a year’s worth of child care – resources that could have been a “lifeline” for women and their families” (Smith 9). When women are unable to pay for basic needs such as groceries, childcare, and rent it can result in serious health issues or even death. There are many issues that sprout just from women getting paid 18 cents less than men and it needs to be fixed, urgently.
The gender wage gap can vary between women with different educational levels. Many women have worked hard to gain either a bachelor's degree or higher in the US, but even having a degree doesn't help close the gap. In a recent study by the Pew Research Center, they found that “In 2022, women with at least a bachelor’s degree earned 79% as much as men who were college graduates, and women who were high school graduates earned 81% as much as men with the same level of education.” This means that women with at least bachelor's degrees earned 21 cents less than men with a bachelor's degree and women without the degree actually earned a little more, at 19 cents less than the men. Women who have less than at least a high school diploma earned an estimated “66 cents for every dollar earned by men (a pay gap of 34 cents on the dollar)” (GAO highlight 6).
The gender wage gap varies through women with different ethnicities. While it is widely known that average women earn an estimated 82 cents to every dollar a man makes, it is actually less for women of different color and races. In a recent study by the Government Accountability office (GAO), they found that the gap ended up being “greater for women in most historically underserved racial and ethnic groups” (GAO highlight 5). This means that not only women as a whole are being discriminated against, but women of color even more. The study also went deeper than just women of color but by studying multiple races of color within themselves. It was found that “for every dollar earned by White men, Hispanic or Latina women earned an estimated 58 cents (a pay gap of 42 cents on the dollar)” (GAO highlight 5). This is the lowest of the earnings that they found, at 5 cents less than African American women and 24 cents less than white women. While the gap is wider for Hispanic or Latina women, it’s actually a lot closer for Asian Women. The Pew Research Center, which is a Think Tank that has published many credible articles, did a study on the pay gap and found that “Asian women were closer to parity with White men, making 93% as much” (Kochhar 5). Even though it seems like it is a good thing that Asian Women earn more, there shouldn’t even be an issue where they are able to be paid more in the first place. If the gap was closed in the first place, we wouldn't see these numbers where some women are paid less than others.
The pay gap varies based on age and motherhood. Many would think that whether or not a woman has children doesn't matter when it comes to the pay gap, but it does. On top of that, age can also be a great factor. In the interview with Pew research center, the author states that “women ages 45 to 54, with mothers earning more than women with no children at home. Among those ages 35 to 44 or 45 to 54, men without children earned only 84% as much as fathers.” (Kochhar 16). This also implies motherhood, “In 2022, mothers ages 25 to 34 earned 85% as much as fathers that age” (Kocchar 16). Many mothers need to take time off of work to find child care for their kids, causing them to get paid less and even lose their jobs sometimes. It has been found that as women grow older, the gap is actually wider than it was when they were young. As they grow older and (maybe) gain children, they have to start paying for more things as well as taking maternity leave when they first give birth. Many would think that they actually need to be paid more, instead that money goes to younger girls who are starting their careers. This is unfortunate because the mothers actually go through so much just taking time to find perfect childcare and supply of food as well as basic needs such as diapers, clothes, shoes, and hygiene when the younger girls basically just need the money for food and hygiene.
The issue of the gender wage gap should be fixed because it affects not only the overall health of women in our world, but it also affects the economy. If we can get the U.S Congress to strengthen their laws that guarantee gender wage fairness, the U.S economy will not only improve but women's health overall will increase, causing a ripple effect for future generations.
Gould, Elise, et al. “What is the gender pay gap and is it real?: The complete guide to how women are paid less than men and why it can't be explained away.” Economic Policy Institute, 20 October 2016, epi.org/publication/what-is-the-gender-pay-gap-and-is-it-real/. Accessed 24 May 2023.
“How the pandemic made the pay gap worse for low-wage workers and women of color.” CNBC, 15 March 2022, cnbc.com/2022/03/15/the-pandemic-widened-the-pay-gap-for-low-wage-workers-and-women-of-color.html. Accessed 24 May 2023.
Kochhar, Rakesh. “The Gender Wage Gap Endures in the U.S.” Pew Research Center, 1 March 2023, pewresearch.org/social-trends/2023/03/01/the-enduring-grip-of-the-gender-pay-gap/. Accessed 24 May 2023.
“Women in the Workforce: The Gender Pay Gap Is Greater for Certain Racial and Ethnic Groups and Varies by Education Level.” GAO, 15 December 2022, gao.gov/products/gao-23-106041. Accessed 24 May 2023.