It’s no myth that gender inequality exists in the workforce. From underrepresentation at the highest levels to unfair treatment, women face challenges that hinder their success and ability to progress.
One of the most notorious forms of gender inequality in the workforce is the gender wage gap. The statistic is typically calculated using the median/average earnings of women divided by the median/average earnings of men, and it appears in two drastically different forms: the unadjusted gender wage gap and the adjusted wage gap.
The unadjusted wage gap, estimated to be around 78-81 cents to a man’s dollar, tells a shocking story regarding gender inequality in the workforce. On top of dealing with intangible factors like microaggressions, overt discrimination, and sexual harassment, half of the world’s workforce simply does not receive adequate compensation for their work. Breaking down the wage gap by industry and race reveals even larger issues: certain industries and races face much larger gaps than others. Industries with female underrepresentation and women of color also fare even worse, since women earn substantially less and often deal with increased levels of discrimination.
However, the adjusted wage gap modifies the original statistic by accounting for factors such as hours worked, familial obligations, age, and education, since simply dividing medians or averages does not tell the whole story.
There are many negative consequences of the wage gap that limit society’s ability to progress and achieve true equality. When women are underpaid for their work, a psychological “glass ceiling” forms that constantly discourages women from trying hard and progressing in their careers. This is exacerbated by the wage gap, which has been shown to widen as women continue advancing in their careers. Due to these diminishing returns on their hard work and career progression, women are constantly reminded of the inequality and discrimination that they face. Additionally, being paid much less than their male counterparts has drastic financial consequences for women around the world: without adequate pay and compensation, women experience difficulties obtaining the basic necessities.
Progress on the wage gap has been frustratingly slow, and it has only been exacerbated by the pandemic. The gap has remained more or less stable over the past 15 years despite legislation, large movements, and diversity and inclusion efforts by some of the world’s largest companies. The wage gap is therefore clearly intricately linked to sexism and discrimination, a pervasive issue that cannot be solved without large-scale changes. The pandemic has also worsened gender inequality and the wage gap in specific sectors like service roles, which are disproportionately performed by women.
This problem is clearly massive and cannot be fixed overnight, however actions such as raising the minimum wage, sharing salary information and investing in high-quality childcare and early childhood education are steps in the right direction. Additionally, mentoring is another solution, since it enables women to realize they are just as proficient and competent in any field they choose to pursue.