It has become commonplace to assume that women’s advancements in education and earnings over the last few decades have rendered sexism and feminism irrelevant. However, the numerous strides taken to close the gap between men and women have failed to make a significant impact, even among young working women.
A study released on October 24th, 2012 by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) states that one year out of college, on average, women earn just 82% of what their male peers earn.
The study considers why women earn less considering factors such as their career field and length of their work week. However, on closer examination, those explanations don’t suffice. Accounting for those factors closes the wage gap, but even in a direct comparison between a woman and her exact male counterpart, she earns at least 7% less in any given career. A similar study estimates that in a lifetime, this pay gap can amount to a woman earning a half million dollars less than her male peers (Carnevale, Rose, & Cheah, 2011).
Disregarding the illegality of employers refusing to provide equal wages for men and women, the AAUW study highlights the economic impact of closing the pay gap. Because they start their careers at a pay disadvantage, women aren’t able to pay off their student loans as readily as men. On average, women have to take out more loans to fund their education, so a larger portion of their comparatively smaller post-graduation paychecks are allocated to paying off loans.
“More than half of full-time working women graduates, 53%, were paying a greater percentage of their earnings toward student loan debt than a typical worker could reasonably afford to pay,” the AAUW study found. “That’s compared with 39% of men.”
“Closing the pay gap would allow women to not only pay their loans with greater ease, but also to create a stimulus that would grow the U.S. economy by at least three to four percentage points,” according to Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. In other words, closing the pay gap could stimulate the economy more than twice as well as President Obama’s $800 billion package in 2009.
The definitive connection between pay equality and economic improvement for both women and the nation makes closing the pay gap one of the most urgent issues our nation faces today. The widespread positive impact of enforcing equal pay laws means this can no longer be categorized as a “women’s issue.” Equal pay is a practical, universally beneficial way to establish equality for women and improve the state of the country.
At your job do you feel like a victim of a pay gap? Do you know how well you’re paid relative to your peers?