Here are some statistics. In the U.S. the median salary for a man is $42,800 and for a woman is $34,700. That is almost a 20% difference and the major reason for this difference is gender. At the corporate level in the U.S. only 4.8% of women hold a CEO position even if at the management level 51.4 % are women.
The primary reason for this discrepancy is plain and simple tradition. Traditionally men have been the breadwinners while women stayed home.
Women came into the labor force during WWII. At that time there were not enough men to keep the economy going and women took up the slack. Women proved that they were just as capable as men. But after the war, women were expected to go back to traditional “women’s” jobs which pay significantly less than “men’s” jobs. the few times that a woman managed to get a traditionally man’s job, she was still paid a “woman’s” salary.
Today, even though women have the legal right to get the same kind of job as men, women find themselves earning less than men for the same job.
Impediments for women’s earning potential are:
- The traditional division of labor in the family where women are still expected to do the housework in spite of their full time work.
- Women work less overtime hours and have to take more leave of absence from work due to maternity and other unpaid household work which is unequally shared among partners.
- Occupational segregation. Some job that are dominated by men and pay better than the jobs dominated by women.
- Women are more timid when asking for a salary increase while men tend to be more aggressive.
- Men overestimate their abilities and performance and therefore have more confidence searching for higher paying jobs.
- Men apply for promotions when the meet about 50% of the qualifications while women apply for promotions when they meet 100% of the qualifications.
Many times the biases that we have against women are deep within our subconscious. It happens often that even women discriminate against other women.
When a woman and a man submit the same job application for a gender neutral job, the majority of the time the job is given to the man.
Waiters earn more than waitresses at the same restaurant. They are tipped higher by male and female customers.
In a study, researchers asked top students male and female how much money they will be earning in 5 years. The men answered $95,000 while the women answered $75,000.
Sweden has turned out to be an interesting laboratory. The quotas in the corporate world and in government have produced positive results. 45% of parliament seats and 25% of corporate executive jobs are held by women. But the interesting thing is that family-friendly policies have increased the gender gap at the workplace. Women can easily drop out of the work force or decide to work less hours, and they do it. Men have the same opportunities but they don’t take them.
Another factor to consider is the way that men and women ask for promotions, bonuses or raises. In general a woman works hard and hopes to get noticed by her superiors, while men boast about their accomplishments. In addition, when a man asks for a raise, it’s normal to be forceful and to negotiate hard, but if a woman uses the same techniques she is perceived as too demanding, unpleasant and unattractive. And even if she gets what she wants, later on she will be disliked by her colleagues both men and female, therefore limiting the possibilities of getting additional raises.
On the surface, all this information gives us the impression that women will always earn less than men, but if we look back in time, it is evident that women have made enormous progress in society and the earning gap gets narrower after each generation. 40 years ago, a woman had basically three choices: nursing, teaching or being a secretary. Nowadays women’s choices are as diverse as men’s and their salary has increased dramatically. Maybe within one more generation we will see a much narrower gap or the gap will become a vintage memory similar to the time when women were not allowed to vote.