A Win For Women: Close the $500 Billion Pay Gap
How many Mega Millions winning lottery tickets would it take to close the gender pay gap?
That’s because $500 billion is the total gender pay gap each year in the United States, and the winning lottery ticket only covers $1.6 billion.
A new report from the American Association of University Women says median earnings for women working full time are $41,977, while men are paid $52,146.
The persistent wage gap begins with a first job and continues through retirement. Thirteen percent of American women ages 18–64 live below the federal poverty level, while 10 percent of men do. Eleven percent of women over 65 live in poverty, compared with 8 percent of men, according to the AAUW.
The three jobs that have the worst pay gap ratios are financial managers, where women earn 65 percent of what men earn; physicians and surgeons, with women earning 71 percent of what men earn, and marketing and sales managers, with women also earning 71 percent of what men in the same jobs make.
Closing the gap is possible with several steps.
“We don’t look at (the solution) as a one-pronged approach,” says Kimberly Churches, CEO of the AAUW. “We are working with state legislators, we are working with employers directly and we are working with proven programs to train women from hourly to salaried positions with in-person workshops and online programs.”
The new AAUW Work Smart salary negotiation online workshops has the goal of training 10 million women by 2022 in how to ask for more money. This is in addition to the in-person training available in Boston, Long Beach, Washington D.C., San Francisco, and other cities, where 17,000 women have been trained each year since its launch three years ago.
Churches, who has been CEO at AAUW for the past year and a half, says, “I believe in pragmatism and holding yourself accountable. We know employers see great return on their investment,” when the gender pay gap is closed.
Closing the gender pay gap doesn’t have to be as mysterious as winning the lottery. Churches says it is simple.
“Congress should pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would update and strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963; the Pay Equity for All Act, which would prohibit employers from using salary history to determine pay; and the Fair Pay Act, which would require employers to provide equal pay for work of equivalent value to reduce the impact of occupational segregation,” according to the AAUW.
A federal program that collected pay data based on sex, race, and ethnicity from private employers and certain federal contractors needs to be reinstated, Churches says. “This data collection would help the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission better identify wage discrimination and encourage voluntary compliance by companies,” according to AAUW.
A national system of paid parental leave would alleviate the burden of the pay gap. State by state, new and stronger pay equity laws and improved enforcement will help. California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington. Forty states and the District of Columbia introduced new equal pay bills in 2018, and and 14 states and Puerto Rico passed equal pay laws in the past three years, according to the AAUW.
“There has to be a transparent process in companies,” Churches says.
Employers should conduct regular pay audits to assess how employees are being paid, eliminate the use of salary history to set wages, and prohibit retaliation against employees for discussing, disclosing, or inquiring about their wages, according to the AAUW.
In addition to this regulatory, policy and employer work, “What can one voice do?” asks Churches.
“Be sure you are trained,” she says.“Make sure there is a transparent process about salary and ask where are the women represented on the board and in the C-suite.”
And each woman can make sure her state’s laws are up to date banning salary history. The cultural climate is also changing, she says. “#MeToo has helped us get to the power disparities.”
Churches says with AAUW’s new digital outreach and commitment to workshops in several states including Kansas and Missouri, she is hopeful this will make a difference and move to close the gender pay gap.
“I’m an optimist,” Churches says. ”Otherwise I would be sucking my thumb and go back to bed.”