What’s in your wallet? A lot more money, if you’re a man, according to a study released last fortnight. Although American women have made major advances in education and income during the past 30 years, there’s still a big pay gap between the sexes. The disparity starts shortly after a woman graduates from college and gets worse over time, according to a report by the American Association of University Women (AAUW).
The study reviewed US department of education data on 19,000 men and women. For every dollar a man earned in 1994, a woman made 80 cents. By 2003, the gap had widened: Women earned 69 cents.
Even when the AAUW study made adjustments for hours, type of job, parenthood and other factors known to affect pay, it found that 25% of the pay gap couldn’t be explained. In those cases, the organization attributed the gap to gender discrimination.
“Isn’t that discouraging?” said Cindia Cameron, organization director for 9to5, National Association of Working Women. “We thought, with greater access to education and women going into all kinds of formerly non-traditional fields such as engineering, science, law and medicine, the problem would right itself over time.”
AAUW officials said pay gaps will continue until more women go into non-traditional fields, become better negotiators, and companies do more to accommodate mothers with young children.
“Women tend to work in occupations that are dominated by women, which tend to be undervalued,” said Cameron, who is based in Atlanta.
One gender expert took exception to Cameron’s assessments and the study in general. “It’s really so sad because they’re (AAUW) hurting women (and keeping them) from understanding what they can do to earn money,” said Warren Farrell, a San Francisco Bay area author of the book, Why Men Earn More, and the father of two daughters.
“When you just stop at the pay gap equals discrimination, you lose the knowledge of understanding how to earn more money,” he said.
Farrell said the pay gap can no longer be attributed to discrimination against women. Socialization also plays a role. In his book, he identifies 25 choices men and women make that put them on divergent career paths. Among them: Women tend to make career choices based on what’s good for them and their lives, an idea Farrell said more men should follow. Men tend to make choices based on what’s good for producing income.
“The bigger issue is understanding the road to high pay is a toll road,” said Farrell. “People who get higher pay work more hours and tend to work in more technical-oriented jobs than jobs that focus on people satisfaction.”