By: Zahin Quayyum
The wage gap, by definition, is the average difference between the remuneration of working men and women working. We have heard the statistics multiple times, over over being broadcasted and on print; for every dollar a white male makes, an asian woman makes 85 cents, a white woman makes 77 cents, a black woman makes 63 cents, a native American woman makes 62 cents, and a latina woman makes 54 cents. This system puts women at a disadvantage, with certain minorities being hit the hardest. However, in order to solve the wage gap, we must understand how the wage gap has come about, and how it has become so severe.
First, it helps to understand the full gravity of the wage gap. How wide is it really, for all women, and how is it measured? According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the gap widened between 2017 and 2018, with women now making 81.8 percent of a man’s salary, going down from 81.1 percent. Though the differences sound small, when translated into money, the gap is more present. In 2018, the median weekly earnings for women was $789, while the median weekly earnings for men was $973. Additionally, median salaries for women stayed the same, while salaries for men increased by 0.9 percent. These figures show the basic differences in salary and earnings, it is not the only way in which the wage gap can be seen. Earnings ratios, which shows the ratio between men’s salaries and women salaries, also provide a better view of the wage gap. The ratio is calculated by taking women’s median salaries and dividing it by men’s median salaries. According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), for 2017 the earnings ratio was 80 percent, meaning that, on average, a woman’s median salary is roughly 80 percent of a man’s median salary.
With these figures, it is clear that the wage gap is a very real and extremely concerning issue. It is then important to understood how it it came to be. Women have historically earned less than, usually in terms of wages. However, recent develops such as minimum wage has ensured that women and men get equally paid. With this said, there are still multiple factors that affect how much women get paid. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, these factors include: lower incomes in women-dominated industries, lack of paid family leave and subsidized family care, and discrimination in compensation, recruitment and hiring. These are just general factors. According to the AAUW, the wage gap may be heightened based on regional beliefs and attitudes about work and gender, as well as differences in scope and strength of equal pay laws based on the specific state. Add in even more factors, such as demographics such as race and age, as well as educational level, it becomes clear that there are multiple elements reinforcing the wage gap on a national and state level.
With the wage gap being this enforced and prevalent, it makes one wonder whether there may come a day where men and women have the pay equity they deserve. However, there are different ways in which we can start to solve the problem. For example, letting of policies that allow the wage gap to persist, such as using prior salary history to set current pay, and prohibiting employees from discussing their wages. In addition, legislative action on the national and state level can be enacted in order to close the wage gap. According to AAUW, some proposals include the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would close loopholes that employers have used to pay women less. It would also allow workers to not facing retaliation for discussing their wages. On a state level, states such as Alabama and Mississippi have no equal pay protections. In enacting certain equal pay laws, these states can start closing the wage gap that exists in their states.
Overall, the wage gap is a glaring example of inequality in the US, and it is estimated that total pay equity may not be reached until 2224. Yet, we can not stop pushing for more action that will give us the pay we deserve.
Zahin Quayyum is a Bengali woman currently living in Queens, New York. She is a pre-med student, and currently volunteers at a lab in the city. In her free time, she enjoys writing for Overachiever Magazine to connect with her South Asian roots, as well as educate herself about current Asian activist issues. She also enjoys learning about the different perspectives of women from all over Asia. She also enjoys watching The Good Place and obsessing over her skincare routine.