Mind the Gap: Explaining Unequal Pay

We’ve heard the statistic over and over. On average, women make 79 cents for every dollar a man makes. We’ve also heard the proposed solution over and over: institute policies that require equal pay. Yet, a lack of policy isn’t the only thing dragging down women’s wages.

An analysis of what’s behind that pesky wage problem reveals that even if women were to work in a field with fair pay – on paper – they’d be affected by the type of work they do, how many hours they can put in (skewed by women’s enduring role as caregivers), and how flexible their schedule is.

A consultant, for example, has to be available 9 – 5 to work with her clients. If she has to miss a few hours to pick up children from school, or help look after a sick relative, that time – however equally compensated – is still time lost.

A woman artist, however, might be free to construct her days as she wishes, and as long as she puts in the necessary hours, it doesn’t matter which hours those are. It’s a lifestyle that’s still exhausting, but not one that forces a logistical exclusion of family or finances. An equal wage policy would only help women who have sufficient freedom to take advantage of it.

Tech company Redfin did a little soul searching and found another contributing factor: companies with women in their leadership tend to have fairer pay. It’s an embodiment of what should be an obvious trend: women want to pay women more. Redfin found that in the average tech company, those with fewer women in leadership positions earned the average 77 cents for every 96 cents men earned.

“At companies with more women executives, women earned 98 cents for every dollar that men in similar roles earned. The two-cent pay gap might not sound like much, but for a man earning a $100,000 salary, a woman would earn $96,000 at a company with fewer women executives, compared to $98,000 at a company with more women at the top. This disparity adds up to tens of thousands of dollars over a woman’s career.”

As a result of their analysis, Redfin began publishing their pay rates, a sort of open accountability strategy that has proved effective. (When the BBC released their salaries publicly, for example, female employees went up in arms after it highlighted a disparity between their highest paid men and women).

It’s not all bad news. Pew Research Centre has found that despite its persistence, the gender gap has actually shrunk. And the cultural clamor surrounding the disparity puts immense pressure on even the largest companies to write the same numbers on their employees’ cheques, regardless of gender.

State of the World’s Fathers Report Launched

At current rates of progress, it will take an estimated 75 years  – or more – for women and men to achieve equal pay for equal work around the world. Achieving equal representation in government, business, and other spheres of power could take even longer.

This inequality in the workplace is inextricably connected to women’s unequal burden of unpaid work at home. Around the world, women consistently do more unpaid care work – including caring for others and domestic work – than men do.

The average time women spend each day on caring for the home and children is still three times what men spend, ranging from about 2.7 times in East Asia and the Pacific to 6.5 times in South Asia.

Women are not just doing more unpaid work than men are; they are doing more work – unpaid and paid – combined. Even where men are contributing more than they used to, men’s contribution to housework and childcare has increased only an average of 6 hours per week over 40 years across 20 countries.

These are some of the key findings from State of the World’s Fathers: Time for Action, a publication of MenCare: A Global Fatherhood Campaign, which Promundo launched on 9 June – just ahead of Father’s Day in many countries. The report draws from nearly 100 research studies and reports, with data from nearly every country where it is available. It calls for a global goal and national action plans to achieve men and boys doing 50% of the unpaid care work globally.

The report reveals that barriers to a gender-equitable distribution of care include gender norms that stereotype caregiving as ‘women’s work’, economic and workplace realities like the gender wage gap and stigma around taking leave, and laws and policies that reinforce the link between men and paid work and women and unpaid care.

How can we break down these barriers and bring men on board with doing 50% of the world’s unpaid care?

  1. Offer equal, paid, non-transferable parental leave.Providing equal, non-transferable, and fully paid parental leave for both men and women sets the standard and builds an understanding that childcare is the responsibility of all parents, regardless of gender. Such policies can work to put an end to the norm that men should be family breadwinners and women should be caregivers. Parental leave should be supported by other measures, such as access to income support – including poverty alleviation and affordable, high-quality childcare.
  2. Show children that everyone has the responsibility and opportunity to care.From the earliest ages, children learn and internalize ideas about gender and caregiving.  When boys see their fathers engaged in caregiving or when they are taught to care for their siblings, they are more likely to continue this pattern of care as adults. Similarly, when girls see their fathers participating equally in housework, they are more likely to aspire to work in less traditional occupations outside the home. Homes – as well as schools – can be spaces where children to learn the value of care.
  3. Teach fathers to transform stereotypes about care and to be hands-on. Men need to feel capable of – and responsible for – taking on unpaid care work in order to achieve a gender-equitable distribution of care. Evidence-based parent-training programs and educational campaigns for men, like Program P, can help fathers challenge rigid norms, learn gender-equitable parenting, and build their caregiving skills.
  4. Recruit more men into caregiving and other health, education, administration, and literacy (HEAL) professions.In addition to bringing more women into science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) professions, more men need to be brought into jobs that focus on care. Engaging more men in the HEAL professions could accelerate social shifts toward greater acceptance of caregiving qualities in all people; however, this shift must take into consideration local realities, and accompany a push for equal living wages for women and men alike.
  5. Get men involved early on in their children’s lives: through the health sector.Health institutions and providers may resist the idea of engaging fathers in maternal, newborn, and child health, despite evidence showing that when fathers are present from the beginning their children’s lives, they are more likely to remain involved later on. Governments should increase training for those in the health sector on the importance of engaging men as supportive, equitable partners and parents. Practical changes to health facilities and practices – like providing after-work doctor’s appointments and private areas for labor and delivery – can also help make them more inclusive of men.

Explore these and other recommendations for action in State of the World’s Fathers: Time for Action, and join the conversation of social media using #WorldsFathers.

Unequal Pay = Unequal World

The pay gap is real. Women are paid less than men across societies, industries and functions. The pay gap is detrimental to human development and until it is eradicated we will not achieve gender equality.

Women working full time in the United States typically are paid 79% of what men are paid. Furthermore, a recent study found that female graduates in the United Kingdom apply for jobs whose average salary is £2,000 lower than their male peers. When women are beginning their career on a lower salary than men, it becomes increasingly hard to make up the difference.

Why does the pay gap exist?

In some instances the pay gap can be accounted for by men’s and women’s choices. For example, more women than men go into teaching and teachers tend to be paid less than other professions. Furthermore, more men than women go into STEM and IT-related jobs, which are some of the highest paying. But it should be clear that these tendencies do not equate with women choosing to be paid less. Rather, there is a systemic imbalance with how we introduce young girls and boys to professions as well as unfair treatment in the office once they are at a working age. It matters if we raise our children on exclusively toy trucks or dolls; it matters if our children see only male CEOs and female supporting characters on TV; and it matters if a majority of men are in politics, making decisions for women. Our choices are influenced by our role models and surroundings.

Additionally, career interruptions, such as motherhood, are another reason for pay inequality. Taking time away from work can hurt earnings and when mothers decide to return to work, they can encounter a “motherhood penalty”. Companies contribute to the gender stereotypes of caregiving mothers and breadwinning fathers by adjusting the pay accordingly after childbirth. A New York Times article explains:

“The disparity is not because mothers actually become less productive employees and fathers work harder when they become parents – but because employers expect them to.”

The “fatherhood bonus” exacerbates the pay gap and coupled with a decline in wage for new mothers, makes it more difficult for mothers to return to work.

2016: Achieve equal pay

In 2016 I will begin business school, and in my MBA courses I will keep wage equality at the forefront of my mind. What decisions do CEOs make that contribute to the wage gap? How do the existing institutions perpetuate inequality? What can a company do to promote equality in the workplace?

I call on you to take action in 2016 to decrease the wage gap in your workplace. A few ideas:

  • Negotiate your salary. Listen to this episode of The Broad Experience for tips and information on negotiation.
  • Know the issues and share your knowledge. Read more for data on the U.S. and U.K. wage gap and take the facts to social media! Call others to action and continue the momentum.
  • Talk to your employer about paid parental leave. Both mothers and fathers should be encouraged to take the same amount of time off work to be with their little one.
  • Expose the children in your life to science, art, and literature. An unbiased introduction to these fields early in life will promote less gendered norms in future generations.

Let’s make 2016 the year to take a tangible step towards gender equality and increase pay for women worldwide.

Featured Image: Flickr Creative Commons

10 Reasons To Be Thankful This Holiday Season

When reporting news of gender equality (or lack thereof), global media outlets typically focus on the negatives. This holiday season, let’s take a moment, celebrate the positives, and be thankful for forward progress.

1. Outspoken feminist celebrities like Beyoncé, Emma Watson, Amy Poehler, and Taylor Swift have helped mainstream the public conversation around gender inequities.

c/o Tumblr
c/o Tumblr

2. Since 1990, annual maternal deaths have declined by almost one half and the deaths of young children have declined from 12 million to 7.6 million in 2010.

c/o Unicef
c/o Unicef

3. Lammily (a.k.a. Normal Barbie) is challenging beauty norms and empowering young girls to embrace their individuality.

c/o Lammily

4. Street harassment is no longer an ignored injustice.

art by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh
art by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh

5. Malala won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, proving once again that she is a BOSS.


6. Millennials are closing the wage gap between men and women.

c/o Tumblr

 7. Women know how to give incredible TED talks.

c/o TED Talks

8. Women around the world joined together to protest and raise awareness about sexual assault on college campuses.

c/o New York Daily News
c/o New York Daily News

9. Elsa and Anna shattered the typical damsel-in-distress female stereotypes (not to mention box office records) in Disney’s ‘Frozen’ and have since become the new faces of female heroism for young girls.

c/o Disney
c/o Disney

10. These holiday gifts exist:

c/o WickedClothes.com
c/o WickedClothes.com

Happy holidays!

Cover image c/o ImgKid.com