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Why the Gender Pay Gap is so Huge in America

Updated on September 27, 2021
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Nyamweya is a global researcher with many years of experience on practical research on a diversity of topics


The topic of gender pay gap has been in the news over a long time. Further, it has also become a major issue in the in the social and political arena of many countries. Equal pay does not only relate to women, but rather, an entire family. From 1960 to 2012, the percentage of women who contributed to at least one fourth of the total family earnings rose from below 28% to more than 60% (U.S. Department of Labor, 2016). In recent perspective, there has been an increasing reliance by families on women’s wages for sustenance purposes. Statistics show that the gender wage gap has significantly declined. From 1970s, the percentage has hovered around 60% or lower (Patten, 2015). This has been attributed to many women joining and graduating from colleges, joining paid labor force, and increased lobbying for equalization of pay for both gender. Efforts of girl child education, gender equity in employment, and lobbies against gender pay discrimination are positively paying off through leveraging gender pay gap.


According to Parker (2015), women who were in the full time employment in United States were paid 78% of what men earned in 2013, thus creating a 22 percent gap. However, statistics shows that this gender pay has significantly continued to decline since 1970s. This is because more women are embracing and expanding their educational horizons, their participation at the workforce and the slow rise of men’s wages.

Hegewisch (2014), explains that there has been a tendency for jobs that have been conventionally associated with men to pay better as compared to jobs that were conventionally related to female and which require the same skill level. Further, even by 2014, men and women were still working in different job categories. The author observes that, the segregation of occupations has been a major factor contributing to pay gap. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2013, approximately 40% of working women were employed in occupations that were considered as female and which include nursing, social work, and teaching. On the other hand, only 5 percent of men worked in these professions. In contrast, 42 percent of working women were in conventionally male occupations including but not limited to aerospace engineering, computer programming, and firefighting among others. The percentage of women in such kind of jobs was only five.

There is a more likelihood for women to work in service occupations, administrative and office support, while men work in construction, transportation, maintenance, repair among others. This segregation of occupations as observed by author observes has been a major factor contributing to pay gap (Patten, 2015).

However, as noted by International Labor Organization, (2014) there has been generally a significant decrease of occupational gender segregation over the last 40 years. Specifically, the gender pay gap from 35 cents in 1980. Prior to this time, an average woman could work for approximately three more months in order to catch up with a man’s earnings from the previous year. The increase has been consisted since 1970 to date. This decrease as noted by this agency owes to the high number of women moving into fields that were previously dominated by men. In other words, women have made significant stride in moving into the previously thought make occupations.

A study conducted by the Press Association (2015) interestingly established that women who were in their 20s, earned more compared to men of the similar age. Particularly, the study notes that between the age of 22 to 29, women earn an average of £1,112 more than their men counterparts. Employing statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the comparative earnings for women and men from 2006 to 2014 were analyzed. The analysis confirmed that women in their 20s earned more than men, though this figure slightly declines as the women grows in age. Even those who carried out this analysis find this imbalance of salary in favor of women early in their careers as something interesting. Interesting as it may seem, the trend which may be considered as “hidden” is that more women are graduating from universities, increasingly joining the labor force and occupying roles of their choice. Further, a woman can now comfortably enroll in an engineering course and go on to work as engineer without negative feelings. Two decades ago, such a woman could encounter social backlash or discrimination from her employer or fellow workers if she dared pursue such a career or any other male career.

The significant decline of gender pay gap has also been contributed by efforts in persuading women to take up jobs in companies that pay better and avoid those that discriminate women or pay lowly. Consequently, women have been and are being steered into taking non-traditional roles such as beauticians, caring pr serving that pay poorly. These efforts have paid off in terms of encouraging these women to pursue high paying careers (Press Association, 2015). For instance, in U.S, the president himself and his administration have been spearheading a campaign requiring companies to disclose how they pay their workers by ethnicity, race, and gender. This is aimed at cracking down on workplace inequality. According to the White House, this move is aimed at making US to be at par with its international counterparts which have succeeded in reducing the gender income inequality. In United Kingdom for instance, the gap on gender income has reduced by 9 percent since 2000. Countries such as Denmark, Ireland, Belgium, have seen a 7 percent decline over the same period (Jopson, 2016).


There is no doubt that the gender pay gap is still extant. However, this gap has significantly narrowed down over a number of years and cannot be compared with say, some two decades ago. This decrease as statistics show has been attributed to many women embracing education and even going into the highest level to attain skills to enable them perform roles that were previously dominated by men. In addition, it is also apparent that the efforts of lobbyists against gender pay discrimination are paying off by sensitizing employers on the need to pay women equally with men for occupations that require similar skills. An additional factor in these phenomena is the changing attitude towards the role of men and women in the society. Specifically, women and men are increasingly switching roles and therefore the traditional roles for either sex are increasingly loosing sense. There is no doubt that if this trend goes on, we will reach a time when women and men are paid equally, or when there is no gender income imbalance.


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