The gender wage gap is an intangible force so powerful that it’s going to take us more than two centuries to close. Discrimination against the female gender is present through every field in our society and the massive gender wage gap that exists today is perhaps one of the biggest obstacles standing in the way of an equal society. As a young woman about to enter the workforce the wage gap which used to be a distant notion is now a very real threat discouraging me and many other women for our future; Why would I want to look forward to a world where I must work ten times harder only to be paid ten times less than my male subordinates? The gender wage gap is more than just unfair salaries it is a mindset and a barrier that affects working women across the globe every single day of their lives.
Women have had to prove themselves against many odds for centuries whether it be for the right to vote or just for the simple fact that we can do what men can and sometimes even better. Our society today is no stranger to prejudices and stereotypes and even in 2021 women are still portrayed to be their authentic selves in the kitchen of their homes and not behind a desk making important decisions in the corporate world. The media dominates our society and is responsible for influencing practically everyone in it. The media has created women to be viewed as mothers and housewives for so long that even in the rapidly changing world we live in the idea of working women seems inferior.
There are so many fields where a woman in charge or a woman being part of that field at all is perceived to be rare. For example, women that have high position political jobs are rare and almost 90 percent of the time these women have had to give up a certain aspect of their life to be in that position. In her article “Why Women Still Can’t have it all” author Anne-Marie Slaughter writes about her struggles while trying to maintain a work-life balance whilst having a high position government job. In this quote, Slaughter talks about the mentality people have about women stepping down from jobs because of wanting to focus on their family life. “One phrase says it all about current attitudes toward work and family, particularly among elites. In Washington, “Leaving to spend time with your family” is a euphemism for being fired. Think about what this “standard Washington excuse” implies: it is so unthinkable that an official would step down to spend time with her family that this must be a cover for something else. How could anyone voluntarily leave the circles of power for the responsibilities of parenthood. Depending on one’s vantage point, it is either ironic or maddening that this view abides in the nation’s capital, despite the ritual commitments to “family values” that are part of every political campaign. Regardless, this sentiment makes true work-life balance exceptionally difficult” (Slaughter). Her example is only one instance where a woman prioritizing her personal life has been negatively disguised by the media. Due to these negative notions created by the media women truly can’t have it all, they are always forced to choose between having a successful career and a family which is an impossible and unfair choice to make, and the media seems to find a way to make either choice a bad one.
As the generations get younger the absurdity of the gender pay gap has become more widespread amongst young girls. Not once throughout my high school years did any of my teachers talk about the gender wage gap and it makes me ecstatic to hear that, young girls now are aware of this problem and are enraged by it. Social media has a huge part to play in this. More and more women are speaking up about the gender wage gap and other issues like sexual harassment. The #MeToo movement took over the world and made a real difference.
Actresses are speaking up about being paid less than their male co-stars and for the young girls that look up to them this is eye-opening. In 2015 Jennifer Lawrence an accomplished actress wrote about being paid less and this was right before the #MeToo movement. When her article came out, I was 13 years old, and I was shocked to hear her story. I watched her movies and loved her, and I was so disappointed to find out about the gender pay gap and I was furious by the idea that someday I could be in her position. In her essay “Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co-Stars?” she discusses worrying about what her male co-stars would have to say about her if she spoke up. “I would be lying if I didn’t say there was an element of wanting to be liked that influenced my decision to close the deal without a real fight. I didn’t want to seem “difficult” or “spoiled.” At the time, that seemed like a fine idea, until I saw the payroll on the Internet and realized every man, I was working with definitely didn’t worry about being “difficult” or “spoiled.” This could be a young-person thing. It could be a personality thing. I’m sure it’s both. But this is an element of my personality that I’ve been working against for years, and based on the statistics, I don’t think I’m the only woman with this issue. Are we socially conditioned to behave this way?” (Lawrence). Jennifer’s point about women being taught to not speak up or having this fear of not being liked is a real problem and is one of the reasons that has allowed the gender wage gap to exist. Jennifer’s example might be an extreme one, it’s Hollywood and she might be losing out on millions of dollars just because of being a woman but there are women not working in Hollywood who survive pay check to pay check making less than their male co-workers and are going through the same emotions she is.
Besides me, there are so many other young women out there that have been exposed to the gender wage gap through social media and Hollywood. An article in Forbes magazine titled “Young Girls Are Confused and Angry About the Gender Pay Gap” talks about young girls’ reactions to the gender pay gap. “There was not a second of consideration – the kids knew that the pay gap was wrong, and their reactions proved it. Their sincerity and eagerness were confrontational and inspiring. At one point, I was brought to tears by the brilliant, sensitive reaction of a 10-year-old girl Caitlin as she said “I feel like there is just more to us than looking pretty. Some people just don’t see girls doing that.” (4). At only ten years of age, these young girls knew what they were talking about and it’s sad that they are having to worry about being paid less, 10 years before they are going to end up in the harsh reality of the workforce however it brings hope that the more women become aware the more prepared they can be.
The gender wage gap has existed for decades but never have people talked about it more. The concept of money is personal and often off-limits to talk about. People get awkward talking about money but now that many people have slowly started to de-stigmatize money related talks women like Emily Marie Wilson have not only started writing about the Gender Wage Gap but are studying it in depth to find possible solutions and reasons for its existence. In her research paper “Lessons Learned from the Gender Wage Gap in the Federal Workforce: Structural Changes and Temporal Flexibility are Only the First Step to Equality” Wilson writes about occupational segregation, a process where workers are distributed within occupations because of demographic characteristics like gender. She writes that “Male dominated occupations tend to pay more than female-dominated occupations at similar skill levels, particularly at higher levels of educational attainment. However, even when women increase participation in a male-dominated field, the overall pay in the field tends to decline. Occupational segregation is the single largest cause of the gender pay gap; it accounts for what some estimate at 54% of the gap. This is an increase from 27% in 1980” (15). Wilson furthers her view on occupational segregation by writing how young girls are persuaded regarding career choices that result in occupational segregation. “How a person is treated within their community influences their choice of occupation. At a young age, girls and boys are steered into certain career paths and industries. The most notable example is the representation of women in STEM fields— science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Basically, the negative stereotype regarding a girl’s ability in mathematics becomes their reality. Girls report less confidence than boys do in their math and science ability” (16). The gender pay gap is caused by societal norms that affect women from a young age and their true potential is inhibited by it thus it’s important for young girls to become more self-aware so they can make life decisions based on what they want to do and not what society thinks is suitable for them.
Women are disadvantaged at the workplace and this discrimination runs deeper than just base pay. The gender wage gap extends over to non-monetary benefits like awards, grants, recognition etc. In her article “The Gender Pay Gap No-One Talks About” Felice Klein writes about equity-based awards like stock option grants being offered more to men than women. Klein writes “I have long studied compensation and inequality and know that base pay is only one way that women are disadvantaged in the workplace. Recent research by myself and colleagues shines a light on how female employees – particularly in the tech industries – likewise lose out when it comes to other forms of pay that receive far less attention: equity-based awards” (5). Klein also explains why this is happening by stating “Part of the reason this gender gap in equity awards exists is down to why they are handed out to employees in the first place. Stocks and options are most often distributed to employees to keep them from leaving. studies have shown that men tend to be perceived as more capable in work settings than women and as such are likely viewed as more important to retain in a company and often seen as a higher risk of leaving for a rival. As a result, men are likely to receive more equity-based awards than women” (13).
The gender wage gap is an issue that is going to take a long time to resolve but spreading awareness about it can significantly reduce that time. Laws and policies that allow the gender wage gap to exist on the legal level are not something we can change overnight, but we can ask for what we deserve, and we can fight to be treated equally. It is frustrating that women need to prove that they can do what men can but nevertheless, we must prove it louder and clearer than ever before so people can hear us once and for all.
Slaughter, Anne-Marie. “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 3 June 2019, www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/07/why-women-still-cant-have-it-all/309020/.
Wilson, Emily Marie. “Lessons Learned from the Gender Wage Gap in the Federal Workforce: Structural Changes and Temporal Flexibility Are Only the First Step to Equality. 2017. NYIT”, “NYIT Libraries Patron Login for Restricted/Licensed Online Resources.” ARKTOS, arktos.nyit.edu/login?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww-proquestcom.arktos.nyit.edu%2Fdocview%2F2011080638%3Faccountid.
Chiu, Bonnie. “Young Girls Are Confused and Angry About Gender Pay Gap.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 11 Oct. 2019, www.forbes.com/sites/bonniechiu/2019/10/11/young-girls-are-confused-and-angry-about-gender-pay-gap/?sh=7dea8c1d29ad.
Klein, Felice. “The Gender Pay Gap No-One Talks About.” BBC Work life, BBC, 7 Aug. 2020, www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200806-the-gender-pay-gap-no-one-talks-about/.
Lawrence, Jennifer. “Jennifer Lawrence: ‘Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co-Stars?”.” Lenny Letter, Lenny Letter, 5 Dec. 2015, www.lennyletter.com/story/jennifer-lawrence-why-do-i-make-less-than-my-male-costars/.