Is the Gender Pay Gap a Myth? 3 Highlights From PayScale’s Reddit AMA
Earlier today, PayScale did a Reddit AMA to discuss its latest report, Inside the Gender Pay Gap. Hosted by PayScale’s Vice President of Data Analytics and Lead Economist Katie Bardaro, Senior Director of Editorial and Marketing Lydia Frank, Senior Managing Editor Aubrey Bach, and Lead Data Analyst and Data Visualization Specialist Gina Bremer, the AMA addressed everyone’s most pressing questions about the gender pay gap – including the ever-popular, “Isn’t the gender pay gap a myth?”
The AMA is here; these are just a few of the highlights:
1. duckalucka: What do you think about those that say gender pay gaps are a myth, and that if they were true, companies would be hiring all women to save money?
kbardaro: In some ways, the use of BLS data to report the overall Gender Pay Gap of $0.78 on the dollar has hurt those trying to bring real disparities to light. Our data shows that when you control for measured compensable factors, the pay gap shrinks considerably. However, we wouldn’t go so far as to say it is a complete myth. For a number of industries, job levels, socioeconomic statuses, the pay gap grows. And it is not simply that companies can go out and hire all women as one of the big problems is there aren’t enough women in these roles where gaps are the largest/most extreme.
LydiaFrank: I don’t think that companies seek to pay women less than men. There are many factors at play that could contribute to why this happens — many of which are ingrained in our culture. Attitudes/beliefs people hold about what’s “appropriate” behavior across genders can be something they’re not even aware of consciously. But aware or not, those beliefs can affect how both men and women treat co-workers, employees, job candidates. In order for things to change, we have to collectively acknowledge that there’s an issue (the data shows us that), that it’s worth fixing (more diverse teams lead to more profitable businesses) and that it won’t change unless businesses and individuals take intentional action to create change. And, part of that is acknowledging that we all have bias. Part of that is also being proactive about tracking pay equity within an organization and adjusting appropriately if it gets out of whack.
2. PutManyBirdsOn_It: What is the basis for saying that the actual pay gap of 2.7% is as “equally disturbing” as the wage/uncontrolled gap of 25.6%? And do you think better labels for the gaps would help make them better understood and therefore less politicized/polarized? (i.e. tiny gap between paychecks but huge gap between what women as a whole earn, and they are not the same issue)
kbardaro: I love the idea of better labels. We often talk about a “Jobs Gap,” which contributes to the uncontrolled gap. It is a fact that fewer women fill STEM roles, which tend to pay more and be in demand in today’s economy. As a society we need to figure out why and how we get women into these roles. One thing to keep in mind is the intervention needs to happen from a young age; before women even enter college so they make the right educational choices.
LydiaFrank: The 2.7% pay gap for men and women when you control for everything may not sound like much of an issue until you start peeling back the layers and see that it grows to more than 5% for women who hold a PhD or to 6% for women at the exec level. The pay gap also grows the more often women say they prioritize family/home obligations over work, but that’s compared to men who say they prioritize family/home w/ the same frequency. There’s a lot of nuance under that controlled gap number.
gb_graphgiraffe: Not only are women in the same roles with the same measured compensable factors still paid less on average, this shows that high paying jobs and industries are still dominated by men. That is, if men and women had an equal share in lucrative positions, our uncontrolled pay gap would not be a whopping -25.6 percent.
aubreybach: The controlled (2.7%) pay gap is just as disturbing because it shows that even when we control for compensable factors (things that actually influence pay in a specific job), women are still paid less than men for doing the same work. Men and women with the same job, experience, education, hours worked, etc. should be paid the same – but that’s clearly not the case. And the fact that the gender pay gap widens as people progress in their careers is even more troubling.
3. boringcarpets: Don’t you think using the “uncontrolled” pay gap and highlighting that first is a little intellectually dishonest? It kinda poisons the well, doesnt it? Given that it is the worst use of an average and, well, uncontrolled – fewer women in full time employment, women working shorter days, choosing different professions and so on, isn’t it just the same sensationalism that is almost baseless? Sure you then say you have a “controlled” version, but shouldnt you use that to debunk/correct the overused 77 (now 74)% hyperbole?
LydiaFrank: The uncontrolled gap isn’t irrelevant. It’s just not the full story. We’d agree that when it’s misused to say that women and men doing the “same work” see that large of a gap in pay, that’s just not true. However, the uncontrolled gap matters for many reasons – some of which are called out below – but I’ll point to one as an example. Women hold 4.4% of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies. http://www.catalyst.org/knowledge/women-ceos-sp-500 It’s 2015. The gender imbalance in the C-suite (and leadership positions in general) is a big contributing factor in the uncontrolled gap, and one that deserves more examination.
aubreybach: The uncontrolled gap isn’t hyperbole – it’s a different way of looking at the data. We certainly aren’t saying that women get paid 26% less for the same job, but we do stand behind the fact that the uncontrolled pay gap points out that there is a big difference in the types of jobs that men and women tend to hold, and I think we should examine that. Why don’t more women go into engineering and tech jobs if they pay so well? (And why do so many women leave STEM jobs?) What can we do in the way we talk to young girls about these job types? And why are there so few women in leadership when 50% of the workforce is female? Those are the biggest contributions to the uncontrolled gender pay gap.
To see the full AMA at Reddit, including further comments on these threads, go to The data geeks from PayScale.com are back. This time we are here to talk about our latest study on the gender pay gap. AMA!
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