The findings of a new report help to illustrate the current state of the gender wage gap. Although women are getting educated at record rates, and pursuing “high-wage majors” in greater numbers, they continue to earn less than men.
The gender pay gap is a real and persistent problem. And progress has been slow. We need to develop a better appreciation for the depth and breadth of the issue if our society is ever to reverse course. Honing in on key facts and details helps us do that.
A detailed and thorough new wage gap report from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce sheds some light on these matters. Researchers have found that at every level of education, women need to earn one additional degree in order for their average salaries to line up with men’s averages. This, along with other key findings from the report, helps to illuminate the current state of the gender wage gap. Here are a few important points to consider:
1. Women are doing the right things to close the gap
One long-held belief about the wage gap is that it exists, at least in part, because of women’s choices. However, these researchers found that women are doing the right things to close the gap.
For example, women have widely embraced the strategy of getting more education in order to earn more money. Women earned 57 percent of the bachelors degrees given in 2015. That’s compared with earning just 40 percent in 1970.
One long-held belief about the wage gap is that it exists, at least in part, because of women’s choices. But researchers found that women have widely embraced the strategy of getting more education in order to earn more money.
Additionally, many women are pursuing high-wage jobs. However, if a man and a women are equally qualified and have the same job, the woman will still only earn 92 cents for every dollar the man makes. (This is something called the controlled gender pay gap, and other research has confirmed that it is a real and persistent problem.)
2. Women have made major changes In Career Choices
It is true that women still chose fields of study, majors, and job titles that are lower paying than men, on average. However, their choices have changed considerably, and it’s important to understand and appreciate those advancements because they are considerable.
- Women now make up nearly half of all business majors.
- Women account for nearly two-fifths of all physical science majors.
- In 1970, just 1 percent of engineering jobs were held by women. Today, it’s 17 percent.
Many occupations are still quite segregated, like engineering, and that fact has a big impact on the overall earnings of women when compared with men. On the other side of the spectrum, low-wage majors continue to be dominated by women. Seventy-six percent of education majors are women, for example. This, of course, is a traditionally female dominated and relatively low paying career path.
“Male-dominated fields tend to pay higher wages across the board,” the report states. “Architecture, engineering, computers, statistics, and mathematics are among the majors that lead to the best-paying careers, but less than a quarter of college graduates in these fields are women. The field of education as well as the fields of psychology and social work have some of the lowest wages for people who pursued those majors in college, and these fields have workforces that are more than 70 percent women. Nevertheless, in all fields—whether they are dominated by men or women, or fairly equally divided among men and women— men consistently earn more.”
3. Women need more education to earn the same as men
Many factors contribute to the reality of the gender pay gap. But when all is said and done, a harsh reality shakes out for women. Researchers found that in order to earn the same as men, women need more education. There are several facts from the report that illustrate the discrepancies. Here are just a few:
- A man’s average salary is $51,000 which is $10,000 more than a woman’s average salary of $41,000.
- A woman with a bachelor’s degree earns about $61,000 a year. That’s roughly equivalent to the average earnings of a man with an associates degree. The rule holds with every successive level of education attained.
- Women with bachelor’s degrees, on average, earn $1 million less over the course of their lifetimes than men with bachelor’s degrees.
- Over the course of a career, a man with a bachelor’s can expect to receive an 87 percent increase to his earnings. On the other hand, a woman can expect just a 51 percent increase over the course of her career, on average.
- Wage disparities actually widen with advanced degrees. For example, a man with a graduate degree in biology, life sciences, or social sciences will earn $1.8 million more over the course of his career than the average earnings of a woman with the same degree.
It’s essential that we acknowledge and seek to better understand the gender pay gap if we want to eliminate it. Facing the facts is a great place to start.
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