On the day after the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, there were women marches all over the country. From Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, to the biggest one in Washington D.C. thousands of women, but also men, participated in the marches that had the goal to raise awareness for women rights. One of the point that was mentioned by many protestors was the gender wage gap.
The gender wage pay is the difference between the average total full-time earnings of men and women. A report from April 2016 of the Joint Economic Committee, also called JEC, states that based on the yearly median annual earnings in the United States a woman only makes 79 cents on every dollar earned by her male counterpart.
“Women on average make 79 cents for every dollar a man makes. What folks will tell you sometimes is you can’t really compare the situation, because a lot of women, by choice, end up working less when they have kids, decide to stay home, and so it’s not the same thing. However, there are still examples where women are paid less doing the exact same job,” said former president Barack Obama during a town meeting in 2014.
President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law on June 10, 1963. The act states that men and women need to receive equal pay for “substantially equal” work at the same organization. In addition, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination that is based on someone’s gender, national origin, race, or religion.
This brings up the question how there can still be unequal pay, even though it is against the law. When taking a closer look at how the numbers are calculated it shows that economics are not factoring in career choices and hours worked. According to statistic from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the wage gap is only 18 cents when looking at the weekly wages and only 13 cents when looking at the hourly wages. Factoring in this data, it shows that the common measurement is flawed because men work on average more and are less likely to take off for parental leave.
“Social learning theory can apply to career choices. For example, if a girl grows up in a home in which the mother has a career that may be atypical for women, she may also choose a career in a male-dominated field. Children learn through observation and career choice may stem from what they have observed in their home,” said Dr. Tammy Lowery Zacchilli, who is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Saint Leo University.
Aside for social learning theory, Zacchilli suggests that another reason for different career paths can be attributed to the type of paths typically chosen by different genders.
“As Berk (2014) points out in her developmental psychology text, women tend to have discontinuous career paths while men have more continuous career paths. This difference occurs because women may choose to take time off while raising a family or they may delay their careers or education until after their children are older,” said Zacchilli. “Men may take some time off for the birth of a child but they typically do not take as much time off as the woman. Women may also choose careers, such as teaching, that allows them to be home with their families on the weekend or during school breaks.”
In addition, as reported by The Washington Post, a survey from the Georgetown University about the economic value of college degrees showed that women dominate nine out of the ten least paying college majors. Some of these majors include early childhood education, social work, communication disorders sciences and service, in which women represent 97, 88, and 94 percent of the degrees.
On the other hand, the study unveiled that men dominate nine out of the ten college degrees that promise the best future salary. These majors include many kinds of engineering, mathematics, and computer science. The highest percentage of men can be found in naval architecture and marine engineering with ninety-seven percent.
“There continue to be some differences in the career choices of men and women. Some areas such as childcare, nursing, and administrative assistants continue to be female-dominated careers while other areas such as construction, automotive occupations, and operating engineers tend to be male-dominated,” said Zacchilli.
The reason for this can not only be found in people’s specific talents, but also in their psychology and what motivates them. A Rochester Institute of Technology study showed that money is the prime motivator for 75 percent of men, while only 95 percent of women said so.
“I think both men and women can be motivated by money and praise in the workplace. Men and women both want respect from supervisors and likely are motivated by a positive atmosphere. I don’t think there are any major differences in motivation due to gender but other factors can certainly influence motivation in the workplace,” said Zacchilli.
A survey from 2007 by the Consad research corporation showed that when bringing it down to the hourly wage women still earn about five percent less than men. This research shows that the wage gap is less than twenty-two percent, but the question still arises whether a gender wage gap is acceptable in a country that stands for opportunity and equality.