Bringing attention to the gender wage gap in America

Even today, wage inequality still exists. Graphic courtesy of CNN.

On June 10, 1963, the Equal Pay Act was passed by President John F. Kennedy which, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, would ensure that compensation would not be discriminatory based on sex. Yet 54 years later, there is still an extreme difference between the salaries of men and women. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) states that at the current rate of pay equalization, it will be 2248 when all women, regardless of race, will be paid equally to men.

Nowadays, one would think that wage inequality would no longer exist, or at least attract more attention. Dr. Erik Wade, who teaches humanities courses, says the gender wage gap “has a lot to do with patriarchy and men’s place being in the public world and women’s place being in the private world.” Wage discrimination is a long-standing phenomenon, originating from around World War II when women first began to work. These outdated values of a woman’s place are what perpetuates the gender pay gap.

The gender wage gap sustains Victorian era ideals that women belong at home taking care of children, while men belong in the workforce. Fifty percent of the students here at Webb will be directly affected by this when they get jobs. Although 80 cents compared to a dollar may not seem like much, over the course of a year, it adds up. As reported by the National Committee on Pay Equity, the average woman’s salary will be $10,000 less than a man’s.

An article by Fortune magazine states that the reasons for pay inequality are because women tend to leave the workforce after having children, they are less authoritative when negotiating salaries, and that some employers are unintentionally biased or sexist. Dr. Theresa Smith, the Assistant Head of Schools says, “Women might not ask for a raise or they might not negotiate in the same way. You have to just remember that you’re just asking for what your value is.”

A survey done by the New York Times states that 61% of non-working women leave the workforce to take care of their kids. Employers that are worried about company support will be more inclined to pay female employees less because they tend to leave the workforce after having kids. However, employers deciding salaries should take into account that not all women leave their jobs to take care of kids, and more recently, men have taken on bigger parenting roles.

Dr. Linsley, a humanities teacher, and her husband try to share parenting roles as equally as possible. However, she says “it‘s so easy to fall back into traditional roles and when you’re so busy anyway, it can be easier to follow the path of least resistance. These roles exist for a reason, economically, socially and culturally. The roles have been developed to help people function in the world that we have.” Dr. Linsley states that “it’s not just about deciding to be more equal, it’s about being up against a capitalist structure which is itself patriarchal.”

Currently, gender is a major factor in a person’s economic value, affecting the ability to accumulate wealth, which affects future generations. Equity remains elusive in the modern job market and is still not a priority in the media and politics.