Unequal pay for women in the same jobs as men is more than unenlightened thinking. For some, working harder for less means coming up short on the mortgage, the heating bill or junior’s tuition. Choosing between groceries and doctor visits. A smaller nest egg with which to retire.
Eleven years after a federal law made it easier for women to challenge pay discrimination, females still only earn about 80 cents for every dollar their male counterparts make. The equity gap persists despite more college-educated and experienced women in the workforce. The reasons are as obvious as they are subtle.
Why do men still bring home more bacon?
According to the Pew Research Center, it is hard to quantify how employers exploit gender bias or legal loopholes to keep women from securing the same compensation as men. But a review of government and employment data revealed statistical trends that might contribute to differences in pay.
- Trailing in the rat race. Men have more experience because women are more likely to interrupt their careers to care for children or family members.
- Lagging integration. Although more women are becoming managers and executives, the stacked deck limits many to lower-paying service jobs such as health-care practitioners and technicians.
- Losing ground. Women who start their careers earning the same amount as men do not keep pace and the depressed salaries prevent upward mobility.
- Forgoing full time. Women are twice as likely as men to work less than 35 hours a week and make up 64% of the part-time labor force.
Small pay gaps add up over time and can plague women into retirement. But earnings inequality also has a profound impact on household income, leaving more children and families in poverty. And a broader effect on the U.S. economy. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research said in 2017 that women lost over $500 billion in comparable wages – 2.8% of the gross domestic product.
Easier to challenge but still harder to get
Lilly Ledbetter worked two decades as a supervisor at a Goodyear Tire and Rubber factory only to learn that two male colleagues in the same made thousands more a year. She lost over $200,000 in salary and retirement benefits. The Alabama grandmother sued the company but lost her case because she did not file her lawsuit until after her retirement. Ledbetter became the namesake of the January 2009 law that allows women to claim discrimination within six months of their last paycheck.
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was a simple fix to ensure fundamental fairness in compensation and reduce second-class citizens in the workplace. But the reality is more complicated. Gender discrimination still exists.
Women have the right to challenge wage discrepancies and demand transparency from their employers. If you believe your employer has failed to pay you fairly, it might be worth consulting an employment law attorney. The sooner you file a claim the easier it might be to earn compensation.