Feminism by the Numbers: The Gender Pay Gap

The Gender Pay Gap

The gender pay gap is often referred to as “The Wage Gap.” However, gender is only one discriminatory factor that plays a role in economic inequalities and these statistics only operate along the gender binary.

equal pay

The Equal Pay Act was signed in 1963,  yet, these statistics show that there is still work to be done in terms of closing the gender pay gap. At that time, women were paid 59 cents per average for every dollar paid to men. Today, 44 years later, that number has only raised 19 cents (1).

Women now account for almost half of the work-force, and about 2/3 of women are the family breadwinner or share responsibilities with their partners. Next time an interviewer asks an individual woman, “how do you do it all?”, the answer is that many women are in positions in which they must “do it all” (I’m never quite sure what is meant by the question, but if I had to guess, it is something along the lines of:  “how do you live within a such constricted gender norm, hold a job, have children if you want to, and find time to still do the things you love without complaint”).

These numbers below are not all due to discrimination, nor are they all due to women’s “choices” (also see this CONSAD report). Rather, these are the results of a workplace that has been built around a male-breadwinner economy in a world in which women are co-breadwinners. The workplace institution has not yet adapted or made space to support the needs of women and their bodies in the workplace. Social factors of gender priming must be taken into account.

“Assuming that women have themselves to blame for the [gender] wage gap is an easy conclusion, because it doesn’t ask us to think the treatment of women in the workplace. In fact, women show just as much enthusiasm for getting ahead as their male peers. Choices aren’t the only thing holding back women’s earnings. Bias is happening, too, even if it’s uncomfortable to call it out.”

Bryce Covert, The Atlantic

The Basics:

  • On average, Women make 77 cents for every dollar men earn (2)
  • That number drops to 64 cents for African American women (2)
  • And to 56 cents for Hispanic women (2)
  • After college graduation, the average man’s starting salary is roughly $8,000 more than those of their female classmates. (3)
  • By age 25, a “typical” woman working full-time will have already earned $5,00 less than a man of the same age (2)
  • By age 35, that number rises to $33,600 (2)
  • By age 65, that number is a whopping $389,300 (2)
  • Yes, this even occurs in so-called “female” dominated sectors. Women secretaries earn 83.4% as male secretaries.  (4)
  • Trans* folks who have undergone  surgery make 32% less if they have transitioned into a woman. Those who have transitioned into men made 1.5% more. (5)

State by State (6):

  • In 2011, the states with the three  highest ratios of women’s to men’s earnings were Washington, D.c., Vermont and Maryland.
  • The three lowest ratios were Wyoming, Louisiana and Utah, with ratios below 70 cents per every dollar men earn.
  • Oh, and in Silicon Valley, women make 49 cents to every dollar a man earns. Where 89% of start up seed money goes to men. (7)

By Occupation (8):

  • The top 3 occupations with the lowest wage gap: Respiratory specialists, Computer Support Specialists, Operations Research Analysts.
  • The top 3 occupations with the highest wage gap: Property/Real estate Association Managers, Personal Financial Advisors,  Credit Counselors/Loan Officers.
  • Out of 534 occupations as defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are only 7 occupations in which women earn more than men (only 3% of the female labor force are in those 7 occupations).

Common Myths About the Pay Gap (9):

MYTH: ” The 77 cents per male dollar statistic is an exaggeration”

  • TRUTH: It all depends on how you measure it. For example, you can measure it by difference in annual earnings or weekly earnings data and come up with different numbers due to seasonal wages or compensation that does not appear in weekly wages. Either way, the wage gap exists.

MYTH:  “Women are paid less because they naturally value family more than work.”

  • TRUTH: First of all, this claim assumes all women are fertile, child-bearing and want to participate in the American nuclear family model. Secondly, a woman (or man’s) choice to have a family is not enough to explain away the gender pay gap. Even women who work full time are paid less, from the very start of a career. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “Researchers have found that merely the status of being a mother can lead to perceptions of lowered competence and commitment and lower salary offers.”

MYTH: “The wage gap will just disappear.”

  • TRUTH: The Equal Pay Act was passed 50 years ago. How long do you want us to wait?


(1) http://www.now.org/issues/economic/factsheet.html
(2) http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/email-files/womens_report_final_for_print.pdf
(3) http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Education/2012/1024/Does-gender-pay-gap-exist-Right-out-of-college-says-new-study
(4) http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1983185,00.html
(5)  http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1983185,00.html
(6) http://www.nwlc.org/resource/wage-gap-state-women-overall
(7) http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/06/silicon-valley-race-gender-problem-income-inequality
(8) http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/labor/news/2013/04/09/59698/the-gender-wage-gap-differs-by-occupation/
(9) http://social.dol.gov/blog/myth-busting-the-pay-gap/
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