Will the Wage Gap Between Men and Women Ever End?

Julie Shenkman
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A crucial issue facing the American economy is the wage gap between men and women. Women have typically earned less money when working in the same professions as men, and while the gap narrowed in recent years, women still earn less money in general. Experts point to several different factors that have led to this inequality in America.

Wage inequality existed for years, but the differences in wages did not become a cultural issue until the 1970s. During World War II, as men went overseas to fight for their country, women took over the jobs they had vacated and launched a revolution. While many of those women went home and gave up their jobs for the soldiers returning from war, this era in American history proved that women were capable of doing the same jobs as men. During the 1970s, women earned an average of 75 percent less than men did in the same jobs. Now, despite that fact that a gap still exists, some signs show that things are changing. Human resources must discuss the wage gap when hiring new employees, and the law requires employers to look at a person's experience and education when determining his or her salary instead of the person's gender.

Location plays a big factor in the size of the wage gap between men and women. Women living in Washington, DC, make 90 percent of what men do, while in Wyoming, women make just 64 percent of what men in similar jobs earn. Some studies found that the familial relationships surrounding female workers can also play a key role in how much they make. Fifteen percent of married women now make more than their husbands do; however, while the number of single mothers rose in recent years, the salaries those women earned remained far below what men in the same jobs made.

The government signed the Equal Pay Act into law as a way to reduce the wage inequality in American, but on average, women still make only 77 percent of men's take-home pay. Whether or not the wage gap continues will probably depend on the people running large corporations. Male supervisors who have daughters are more likely to pay women a higher wage, according to Robyn Pennacchia. Pennacchia points to a study by researchers overseas and in Maryland that found the wage gap between men and women decreases by up to 3 percent when a male supervisor has a daughter. The study demonstrates how external circumstances can decrease the gap between those working in the same profession.

Workers should earn at a rate based on what they bring to the company, including their past experiences and their skills, but women still generally earn less than men in the United States. While the wage gap has existed since women first entered the workforce, recent findings show that women now earn more than before in certain regions and that the gap is getting smaller, albeit slowly.

(Photo courtesy of Ambro / freedigitalphotos.net)

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