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The Gender Pay Gap
How did the Gender Pay Gap even start and why is it still a thing? How come we have come this far and job earnings is still not equal? The history behind the pay gap is important for one to understand because then we can understand how to close it. Not many people believe that the Gender Pay Gap is an actual problem that effects peoples lives. Not only is it making an impact on just women’s lives, but also ethnic women. It is important for America to start talking about the gap because if no one talks about it, no change will occur. It is a large problem in todays society and hopefully soon people will realize it’s depth and disparities.
Since the 1940’s, the Gender Pay Gap has been a huge problem that sadly has not been talked about enough. It started when women were taking over men’s jobs when the men left for World War II and before that it wasn’t a problem because women weren’t even involved in the workforce. For every dollar a man made, a woman earned 56 cents of that. Luckily times have changed and now the gap has shrunk to around 80 cents per dollar. The pay gap is heavily rooted in sexism and depends on the experience of the worker. Nowadays women have a ton more experience, yet the gap is still not closed. Also, the Gender Pay Gap can differ between ethnic groups. African Americans and Hispanics have the biggest challenges because they get paid the least amount compared to men. Asian women have the smallest size of a gap with White women following after. Age is also another component that can affect the women’s gap. The younger the female is the smaller the gap is and the older the bigger the gap. Although there has been much success with equalizing gender earnings, it’s still not enough. The gap doesn’t seem like a whole lot since it is compared by the dollar, but those 20 cents lost per dollar starts to add up. It can also have long term effects, like for example retirement. Hopefully people will start to realize that this problem is affecting women’s lives and families.
The Gender Pay Gap is the difference between a male’s earnings and a women’s earnings when executing identical jobs. This has been a known issue in America for generations but luckily there has been an immense amount of progress. “Women’s wages are now significantly closer to men’s, but in recent years, the progress has stalled(Gould, Schieder, Geier, 2016)”. The best excuse for the pay gap is that a while back men believed they were more advanced than women and since then, nobody has taken the time to completely mend what was broken. So far we have made much progress in closing the Gender Wage Gap, but it is still not completely equal and many factors can affect the gap such as sexism, race and age.
The Gender Pay Gap has been a problem since the 1940’s when the men were leaving to fight in World War II and women were taking over for their jobs. The disparity in men and women’s wages was due to how little experience they had. A group called the National War Labor Board made a request to get the workforce to equalize women and men’s wage when doing the same job. Since this request was just an urge and not a law the employers decided to deny. When World War II started to come to an end and veterans were returning home they also returned back to their jobs, kicking out the now experienced women. When ads for job positions would be displayed out in public they would say “Help Wanted?Male”. The job openings were now being differentiated by gender and experience. This time era, including all the way up to the 1970’s, was heavy in sex discrimination. This distinction between gender was apparent in the Schultz v. Wheaton Glass co. court case. The Wheaton Glass company had changed the name of women’s jobs even if they do the same job as men. “Evidence showed that the positions were dramatically similar and that the defendant was subverting the law by employing women under one job title, that paid less, and men under another title (Equal Pay Act, Laws, 2019)”. They did this so that they could still legally pay women less since their jobs were different, or to them the names were just different. This case brought out the different meaning behind the word “equal”. It showed that as long as the two jobs weren’t identical then they wouldn’t have to be paid equally. This was completely unfair because the actual tasks in the jobs were the exact same, except for the title of the job.
From the 1960’s to now, the job opportunities for mothers has increased by 36%, which allows women to be a big source of income to support their families. Although it is good that more women are getting the opportunity to work, the wage gap has yet to be closed. Plus the main reason the gap even started to close was because men’s wages got lower and women’s stayed the same. “According to the United States Census Bureau, in 1960 women working full time earned about 60 cents for every dollar earned by men (Daugherty, 2021)”. Here we are 60 years later and “women still earn about 82 cents for every dollar men earn (Daugherty, 2021)”. The gap is decreasing half a cent a year, which is closing at a slow pace. In dollars, the average hourly wage has a $3.25 difference, with men receiving $18.94 and women only $15.67. The effects of this pay gap may not seem that extravagant but those $3.25 could make a large difference in someone's life. Those few extra dollars could have been going towards feeding one’s family or buying something in need. Now it is not only the men that are relied on to bring home the money, but women have now started contributing more and can be considered “breadwinners”.
The gender wage gap isn’t just completely based off of someone’s sex, but along with their enthnicity. Not only is it hard enough as a woman but add onto that being African American or Hispanic. According to The Simple Truth About The Gender Pay Gap (2018), Hispanics and African American women are typically earning the lowest amount of money. Their wage penalty, which is another word for wage gap, averages around -$7.30 to -$8.90. The ethnic group that has the smallest sized gap is White and Asian women, meaning their wage penalty averages around -$2.15 and -$4.00. Still today, we are battling the fight of racism and racial equality which fixing the Gender/Race Wage Gap would impact these fights. This earning equality is just another element of America’s racism.
Another component that changes the size of the gap depends on the women’s age. “In 2017, for full-time workers ages 20–24, women were paid 90 percent of what men were paid on a weekly basis….Women 55–64 years old are paid 78 percent as much as men in the same age range, a gap that is more than double the gap for women ages 20–24 (Miller, 2018).” As women get older and advance more into their jobs, the wage gap seems to get larger. So when women get more experience in their jobs, they get paid less than their male coworkers, which makes absolutely no sense. The whole reason women got paid less in the first place is because they didn’t have enough experience. Now that they have the progression and knowledge, they are still suffering from the pay gap.
In the play A Raisin In The Sun the author, Lorraine Hansburry, doesn’t talk about the gender pay gap but she does discuss gender inequality during the 1950’s. This play has a recurring theme that the man of the house is the main source of income. That’s why Walter Lee is the dreamer and has these huge hopes for owning his own liquor store in the future. When his sister, Beneatha, is trying to save up for medical school so that she can become a doctor Walter has doubts. He says “then go be a nurse like other women-or just get married and be quiet…(Hansberry 41)”. During this time, Walter Lee criticized Beneatha’s dream, while he believed his dream would make him more respected in life. This proves that during this time, jobs and money makers were heavy in the supremacy of males.
The book The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is based in the 1920’s, which is way early before the pay gap was a problem and the only problem was women working at all. During this time it was only starting to become acceptable for a woman to get a job, meaning that women had to marry as rich as they could to support them and their future family. For example, Gatsby cries “‘She only married you because I was poor and she was tired of waiting for me’(Fitzgerald 100)”.
The last example of women’s inequality in history was through the book Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly. This astonishing true story is based on women working at NASA in the 1960’s where it was not usually acceptable. Not only are the four individuals in this book women but they are also African American. The entirety of this book shows that women deserved to be in the workplace from the start, and they proved this by using their brains to help send a man out into orbit. These three books all have separate meanings and dynamics but they all can connect with gender inequality.
It is completely unethical and unfair for the Gender Pay Gap to have taken this long to close the gap, and it’s still yet to be closed anytime soon. They say that “If change continues at the slower rate seen since 2001, women will not reach pay equity with men until 2106( Miller and Vagins 5)”. It’s sad to see that people don’t believe it is still a problem today, yet women are suffering at a 20% difference of earnings. Not only are women suffering, but specifically African Americans and Hispanics are needing the most help with fixing the gap.
Hopefully people will come to realize that there must be a change and it must be sooner than 2106.
Annotated Bibliography/Works Cited
Gould, Elise, et al. “What Is the Gender Pay Gap and Is It Real?: The Complete Guide to How Women Are Paid Less than Men and Why It Can't Be Explained Away.” Economic Policy Institute, 20 Oct. 2016, www.epi.org/publication/what-is-the-gender-pay-gap-and-is-it-real/.
This website is extremely helpful when it comes to finding data and statistics. The whole site is very organized, it even provides a section sidebar so you can easily find what you are looking for. The authors formed such a useful website because of all of the information they had on the gender wage gap. They also combined some facts about gender wage gap and race, age and education level into the site.
Miller, Kevin, et al. AAUW, 2018, The Simple Truth About The Gender Pay Gap Fall 2018 Edition, www.aauw.org/app/uploads/2020/02/AAUW-2018-SimpleTruth-nsa.pdf.
American Association of University Women is a non profit organization that focuses their entire research and data on women's equity. This report is full of helpful information and talks about factors that might be contributing into the pay gap. The authors also offer support and guidance if the reader is experiencing wage inequality.
Miller, Kevin. AAUW, 2020, The Simple Truth About The Gender Pay Gap 2020 Update, www.aauw.org/app/uploads/2020/12/SimpleTruth_2.1.pdf.
This report came out two years after The Simple Truth About The Gender Pay Gap 2018 Fall Edition. This 2020 update gives data on how Covid-19 had affected women's jobs. This is a credible source because the organization, AAUW, has devoted their research to educating people on inequality in the workplace.
Graff, Nikki, et al. “The Narrowing, but Persistent, Gender Gap in Pay.” Pew Research Center, 22 Mar. 2019, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/03/22/gender-pay-gap-facts/.
This article comes from a great and credible website. They show you where they did their research and got their facts from. This article gives a better understanding of how age can impact the wage gap between men and women. They also touch on the fact that motherhood can come with obstacles for workers.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. Charles Scribner's Sons, 1925.
This book relates to my research paper because it has a common theme of gender roles. Fitzgerald never specifically talks about it but it is pretty known that the women in this book rely on marrying rich. I use the example that Daisy chooses Tom over Gatsby because he was too poor.
Hansberry, Lorraine. A Raisin in the Sun. New York: Vintage Books, 1994.
This book is based around the 1950’s and is deep in gender inequality. I used this book as an example because Walter Lee’s sister Beneatha is doubted by her surrounding family that she can go to medical school. This example helps me prove my point that when the pay gap was large, it was due to the idea of male supremacy.
Shetterly, Margot Lee. Hidden Figures. William Morrow and Company, 2016.
This book is a great example of women in the workplace. It is based on a true story of African American women working for NASA and helping on a space mission. It is based around the 1930's-1960's.
Daugherty, Greg. “Gender and Income Inequality .” Investopedia, 15 Feb. 2021, www.investopedia.com/history-gender-wage-gap-america-5074898.
This website contains all of the research and information one would need to be able to understand how the Gender Pay Gap started. This website is very useful and helpful.
“Equal Pay Act”. Laws, 22 Dec. 2019, employment.laws.com/equal-pay-act.
This website describes the Shultz vs Wheaton Glass co. which is important in the history of the Wage Gap. It also explains other cases and important movements for the progress.