Searching for Answers to the Gender Wage Gap

Toni Steffens-Steward
The Paw Print

I, like many others, have heard before about the gender gap, where women are paid less than men for the same work. Unfortunately, like many others, I hadn’t ever given it a lot of thought. I suppose the main reason that this information had never really affected me was that I didn’t really think that the gap would have any impact on my life.
Now, I have found that it is an issue that everyone should be aware of. There are many ideas floating around as to why women are paid less than men for equal work. Most of those ideas try to explain the difference in ways that do not end up pointing to gender discrimination.
One of the most prominent reasons cited for the gender wage gap is occupational segregation. This is a fancy way of saying that women like certain jobs, and unfortunately they just happen to pay less than the jobs that men like. Margaret Gibelman wrote a paper called So How Far Have We Come? Pestilent and Persistent Gender Gap In Pay on the effect education has on the occupations that people ultimately choose. In her paper she asks “Are the services performed by nurses (predominately women) less valuable in society than the services performed by surveyors (predominately men)?”
While her question brings up an important point it overlooks an even simpler question. Why are women often paid less than men for the exact same work?
Others have considered if women are paid less than men because the effort they use to do housework and take care of family members makes them unable to expend the same amount of effort at work as men. The majority of women do still have a second shift, where they spend about 2.6 hours doing housework and taking care of other people, after they have returned from work. It does seem possible that those women are tired, and that could affect their work. It is hard for me to believe that their 2.6 hours of extra work at home actually makes them less productive during the work day. It is also unbelievable that women would accept lower pay because ultimately they do more work.
The most annoying explanation, in my opinion, is that women just don’t negotiate as well as men. This one hits close to home for me, as I’m sure it does for others. When men are offered employment and a wage is discussed they are more likely to negotiate for a better pay, while often women will take the amount that is offered to them. I know that I have never asked for more money when I was offered a job, but that might change in the future.
As for the amount of money that is accounted for in the gender gap, the US Department of Commerce reported in the Women in America Indicators of Social and Economic Well Being, released in 2011, that the earnings gap had narrowed from 62% in 1979 to 80% in 2009.  That looks like a good amount, but it is still nowhere near equal. is powered by WordPress µ | Spam prevention powered by Akismet