Mind the (Gender Wage) Gap
By Kate Meyer*
I am a young woman at the start of my career. Like many other young women my age, I’ve benefited greatly from previous generations’ struggles for equality. We grew up in era when abortion was always legal, when Title IX boosted our sports teams with the same resources as the boys’, and we were always allowed to attend the same universities as men. We have been raised looking up to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Jane Goodall, Toni Morrison and the Williams sisters. We are out-enrolling men in undergraduate and graduate programs, and even academically out-performing them too. Up through college graduation, it’s intuitive to celebrate how far women have progressed in society, and how much we’ve achieved. But upon entering the workforce, we are blindsided by the stark reality of the obstinate gender wage gap.
Let’s examine this reality. As a White woman, I’ll earn 75% of White men’s earnings. My peers who are black will earn only 61.9%, an Asian woman just 82.3%, and a Latina will earn a mere 52.9%. If I choose to go in to business, I will earn $4,600 less than my male counterparts in my first post-MBA job. If I choose to be a doctor in New York State, I will earn $16,819 less than my male counterparts in my entry-level position. If I choose to have a career in government, I am more likely to end up with a job in local government (where the wages are lower) than in federal government. I will be affected by the pay gap no matter if I am in a high or low paying job: women dry cleaners make 73.4% of their male counterparts, and women chief executives make 74.5%. I will be more likely than my male colleagues to work part-time or take leave to perform unpaid care giving—another blow to my earnings and my positioning for career advancement. The wage gap will only get bigger as I get older. Add it all up and I will lose out on $434,000 over the course of my career.
Equal Pay Day is a day to come together and demand that our progress is not yet enough. We are not paid enough. We are not valued enough. We are not accepted as equals enough. We will not be invisibly devalued and discounted before we show up on our first day of work or after forty years of service, whether at Wal-Mart or on Wall Street. It is a day to recognize the intersection of discrimination, to commit to passing key legislation like the newly reintroduced Paycheck Fairness Act, to speak out against the inequality that’s all around us, and to take action to close the gender wage gap for everyone. Until we’re equal in the workplace, it’s not enough.
*Kate Meyer is a Research Assistant at the National Council for Research on Women. She recently graduated from Cornell University where she studied Government, Spanish and was a member of the Cornell Women’s Resource Center Advisory Board.
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