Gender Pay Disparity

The American Association of University Women just released a report showing that gender pay disparity is alive and well in the US:

  • There is a pay gap in all 50 states. In 2012, the disparity was smallest in Washington, DC, where women were paid 90 percent of what men were paid. It was largest in Wyoming, where women earned 64 percent of what men did.
  • The pay gap does not discriminate based on occupation or education level. Women working in female-dominated, male-dominated, and gender-balanced occupations earned less than men. And women’s median earnings were less than men’s at every level of academic achievement.
  • As women age, so does the pay gap. Women 25 and younger typically were paid around 90 percent what men were paid, while those 35 and older earned about 75 percent to 80 percent of men’s pay.

That last bullet point is very interesting because it begs the question about what's behind the change as women age. Is it because women pay a price for motherhood? Or, is it a relatively new phenomenon that reflects the trend of more women getting a higher education than men and thus holding more of the better paying jobs? It's hard to say without looking at the data to see if the study authors are doing an "apples to apples" comparison of people in similar jobs or are just looking at averages across all industries/jobs by age.

No matter the reason the smaller pay gap for younger women is still not fair and in a perfect world compensation would be purely merit based and not skewed by factors like gender or race. Of course the world isn't perfect and there's unfair pay even within genders and races, but at a minimum we should do everything we can to remove the blatant biases that still exist. 

With current demographic trends the gender bias might take care of itself. Fewer and fewer men are seeking a higher education and in an ever more complex economy like ours their lack of education might lead to the majority of men being the second income in their household and/or the primary caregiver for their children. Will women still be paid less than their peers with the same job? Maybe, but as the ranks of women in those positions grow it seems less likely.

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