The Real Reason Why Women Still Earn Less Than Men?

gender wage gap

It seems like every other week there is another study examining the persistent wage gap between male and female workers in America. Female workers still earn, on average, 77 percent of what men earn for the exact same work in a year, a stat that has remained unchanged since 2005, according to the U.S. Census. And on-the-ground evidence only furthers the case; just this week, two young college grads working as paralegals in New York City told Business Insider that the male makes 15 percent more than the female, and has an office, while the female works from a cubicle.

But what causes the gap? Is it because of choices that women make -- or just good-old-fashioned sex discrimination? Or another reason altogether?

A New Study Offers A New View: Women Work Differently

A new study by the Federal Reserve of St. Louis caused an uproar last week when it argued that the gap between men and women is in fact much lower than is widely reported. For starters, the study says, widely reported figures don't account for varying work habits between the genders.

So, for instance, when looking at median weekly earnings, which the study notes reached a low of a 16.5 percent pay gap last year, it's important to note that such analysis might be incomplete, given that "women are likely to work fewer hours than men." As a result, the study notes, the appearance of a gap may not represent a reality in which hourly wages are in fact the same.

More: 7 Part-Time Jobs That Pay Up To $40 An Hour

Women Aren't Motivated By High Salary, Study Claims

Beyond the argument about hourly earnings versus weekly earnings, the St. Louis paper also argues for a reassessment of the role of men in higher paying-professions. The higher concentration of men in higher ranks "may be skewing the data," in the words of a report by The Wall Street Journal.

And men and women often enter the workplace with different expectations, the authors note. After having children, many women who seek employment are more motivated by the attainment of benefits -- like flexible scheduling or insurance -- than a high salary. So when accounting for total compensation, including both wages and benefits, the gap in weekly pay shrunk to 3.5 percent, according to the study.

Not So Fast

Just days before, Evergreen State College historian and noted author Stephanie Coontz wrote an op-ed in The New York Times blasting a series of recent books, such as "The End of Men," which argue that men are on the decline. Those who argue that women are ascending, while men are declining in both the workplace and society, "exaggerate" gains that have been made. Sure, Coontz concedes, things are no doubt better than when husbands could legally rape their wives in their homes. But if there was true equality, "why do women make up only 17 percent of Congress?" she asked in her essay, entitled, "The Myth of Male Decline."

Here are some more data points:
  • Women make up 40 percent of full-time workers in management.
  • Only 4 percent of the CEOs in Fortune's top 1,000 companies are female.
  • In some metro areas, never-married childless women in their 20s earn more than their male counterparts.

Coontz notes that this last trend is "an anomaly," due to the fact that there are many highly educated single white women in cities -- and lots of poorly educated, low-wage Latino men.

What's the path to parity? For Coontz, it would help if men and women both work to shatter the "masculine mystique," so that the culture evolves into one in which men can "liberate themselves from the pressure to prove their masculinity."

In The Eye Of The Discriminated

Charged discussion about wage disparities and relations between the sexes can only be a healthy thing for America. But amid all the statistical analysis comes one last report that might provide some valuable insight into the state of things on gender parity in 2012. As real as inequality may be, and of course it can often be, it's important to keep in mind how large a role perception might be playing.

As was reported by USA Today, a recent survey of 400 economists by the American Economics Association found that 76 percent of women say faculty opportunities in the field favor men.

As for their male counterparts? Eighty percent say women are favored or the process is neutral.

Which do you think is right?

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One thing that was stated in another study that this one apparently missed was that a man is more likely to negotiate for a higher salary or wage than a woman when entering a job. I am a woman and I am pleased that finally a news venue has posted the facts instead of some feminist BS. Is there discrimination? Yes. Are we so discriminated against that we can't make as much as men? No.

January 22 2013 at 8:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
c laird478

Since there are so many women in management positions at companies these days, if women managers really wanted to resolve the issue of equal pay for equal work for women, they should be able to without much difficulty. If the women managers aren't resolving this issue then it is not the fault of men that there is so much unequal pay. Women need to resolve this issue themselves instead of just whining and complaining that men are discriminating against them, when it is their own women managers who are doing the discriminating.

October 10 2012 at 4:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lord Vader

Why is the media always bringing this into question? Before I as a man should care about how unfair a womans wage is compared to a wage, how about doing a story how unfair the child support/custody system is? What about the ungodly amount of alimony women get from male spouses after divorces? A woman has the ability to use company sick leaves for maternity leaves while a man cant. Try working in retail as a manager where young women always whining about their periods and always asking to get out of work forcing other men to pick up the slack. Of course the media never reports the actual truth. Women also get lighter prison sentences compared to men for the same crimes committed. Where is the outrage in that?

If women were truly to be treated equally as men, they would be complaining more than they do now!

October 10 2012 at 4:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Lord Vader's comment

"A woman has the ability to use company sick leaves for maternity leaves while a man cant."

It's definitely unfortunate that when a man gets pregnant, he doesn't have the benefit of maternity leave.

January 22 2013 at 8:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to valgaavmiko's comment
Devrie Paradowski

Actually, both men and women are eligible for maternity leave for up to 12 weeks following the birth of a child. Getting sick leave falls under that as a woman. Men are able to take sick leave related to surgeries and other body issues, just as women. It just so happens women tend to need sick leave after delivering a baby; however, most don't take more than 12 weeks in the United States (the same time a man can take for the birth of his child).

As to child support, if you think about role perceptions and just natural states of things...when a couple has a child and then gets divorced, whoever has the child is at a major economic disadvantage. Firstly, it does cost extra money to raise that child. Secondly, whoever has custody of that child is often more restricted in job choices. Shift work? Maybe not if you can't find someone who will watch the kids for two weeks during the day then two weeks through the night or on weekends. Thirdly, not only are job choices restricted, but the cost of childcare is pretty heavy. If you have two kids, it can cost almost $300 a week for child care.

I don't know much about the "fairness" in how child support is calculated, but my ex-husband was ordered to pay $240 a month. I rarely see it and nothing happens. Twice in the past six years there was some kind of IRS intercept, and the first time, he thought I did that and got really upset with me. If the IRS can't intercept it, nothing comes here at all, and he just goes on doing what he does. Now, in some states, I suppose guys get arrested or get their driver's licenses suspended, which really makes no sense to anyone involved.

Perhaps there are some instances where child support laws are not "fair;" however, as a gender, the woman tends to be the automatic caregiver and no one considers her time valuable. We calculate the extra cost of electricity, food, toys, and school clothes and shut the door. Mom's time is valuable. She's driving the kids, teaching the kids, babysitting the kids, kissing their boo boos, spending 30 minutes in the bathroom waiting for that first toilet event, taking off work for parent-teacher conferences, taking off work for kids with pink-eye--because she has no choice. She's not taking off work because she's lazy. She's paying more out of pocket for child care on closed school days for teacher-workdays, she's having to spend more in the summer for child-care.

If she's taken off work to care for young children before a divorce, she's got an employment gap on her resume, and thus she'll get a lower wage returning to work. When the peanut gallery sees how difficult it is to find decent work that covers child-care and gass, all the nation bellows that she should have waited for children, yet somehow, most men aren't involved in that discussion. She should have waited, not him.

The burden of economic sacrifice is on both parents, but in different ways.

August 09 2013 at 11:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down
Billy Jean

Here's my theory on the pay discrepancy........ there are many many women who will work for next to nothing!! because they have kids to raise or whatever! The men in their lives walk out and leave these women to support the children. It's not about working harder. that's crap! I have found that women generally work harder than men all day long!

October 10 2012 at 4:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Billy Jean's comment

You are somewhat correct. It has been found that men are more likely to negotiate a higher pay than women when entering the workplace.

January 22 2013 at 8:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sander Gauzner

If women do the same work and productivity of men but are paid 25% less than men, why wouldn't companies just hire women? They'd save 25% in labor costs! They'd make a killing! But they don't, why is that...

I'm sick of this women not being paid as much as men, all this feminist political garbage, if feminists would shut up and work harder instead of protesting all the time, maybe they'd make as much as men.

October 10 2012 at 3:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So, at least part of what this study suggests, is, that if I am smarter, able to do responsibilities quicker, and save time for the company in which I work: My need should be less a priority for accomidation and, I should be paid less! I suppose women in the workplace, earning a favorable "reppertoire," is, in part, due to past parential choices and customs...

October 10 2012 at 1:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rene Huerta

woman are more sensitive on working and cry more. men like me work harder

October 10 2012 at 6:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I worked more hours than most men. Twelve to 15 hours was normal for me. My education was higher than most of the men I worked with - guess what? I was paid the same as my male counterparts. As for opportunities - I fought for them and got them. Ladies we must fight but we can win

October 09 2012 at 9:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to universallite's comment

According to the usual Feminist shtick, it does not matter that you worked more hours than them or had higher education than them, you should all be paid the same. Ironically, you got exactly what feminists wanted: equal pay, regardless of realities of the job.

Also ironically, what you are advocating for, pay being based on the value one gives to a company, is what is already being done, and is being attacked by feminists as unfair.

You can thank your friendly neighborhood feminist for getting screwed, not men.

January 07 2013 at 9:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

OMG - as a male that worked in a cubicle for a much younger female, my sensitive side is now hurt. My machomorph side just knows i got screwed.
Oh well!

October 09 2012 at 8:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It is still a man's world. Men are promoted because of their anatomy, women still have to work twice as hard to be considered adequate.

It is better than it used to be, however considering that our economy is about to crash again, no one should feel safe in the job they currently have. Man or woman.

October 09 2012 at 7:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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