With women heading major corporations like PepsiCo and eBay and others running for major offices—including President of the United States—it's hard to believe a gender gap in salaries could exist. Yet according to statistics about accounting salaries, equality in the workplace isn't as advanced as most people like to believe.
At first glance, there doesn't seem to be a gender bias in the accounting industry, especially when you consider the number of women in high-ranking accounting jobs. However, the Institute of Management Accountants, which tracks industry-related salary information year over year, has not reported salary equality since it started keeping records in 1989. In 2012, the IMA reported a gender gap of 78 percent in accounting salaries. In other words, for every dollar earned by a male accounting professional, an equal female accounting professional earns around 78 cents. All other things being equal, women in accounting jobs might earn $78,000, while their male counterparts are earning $100,000. You might think that the salary gap is closing, but IMA numbers tell a different story. The smallest gap in accounting salaries was seen in 2006, when it was 80 percent.
Differences between the genders aren't limited to accounting salaries. According to IMA studies in previous years, benefit-based compensation could be as much as 50 percent lower for women than for men. The total wage gap widens with age. Women in the early years of their accounting career may make 88 percent or more of what men at their experience level earn. Some experts have rationalized the growing gap in accounting salaries by citing work styles, the tendency for women to take more time off, or the tendency for men to more aggressively seek promotions. The IMA won't touch those speculations, though, and simply promises to make its organization open to a diverse range of accounting professionals.
Accounting isn't the only industry to see a gender gap. According to the American Association of University Women, the average gender gap for professional salaries in the United States is 82 percent, which is slightly better than the gap in accounting salaries. Even when comparing salaries for similar positions, the AAUW found a 7 percent gap. AAUW Director of Research Catherine Hill points out that stereotypes still exist. In fact, gender bias related to pay is so pervasive, it shows up at the earliest possible age. According to a University of Michigan study, when families offer monetary rewards to children who complete chores, girls tend to work two hours more than boys and earn less for the completed jobs.
Women working in accounting positions should turn in the best possible effort and demand fair compensation for a job well done. Companies in the field should evaluate hiring and compensation practices to avoid an unfair gap in accounting salaries. Even if you're sure your policies are fair, the IMA numbers are a good reason to give compensation another look.
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