The conversation about equal pay tends to focus on professional and salaried women. But the wage gap affects women of every education level, in every field, and at every stage of their career.
Starting upon graduation from college, women earn $4 less per hour than their male classmates. Women with advanced degrees are paid 74 percent of what similarly educated men are paid. This inequity has long term impacts on women’s ability to repay loans, and creates a new problem: the debt gap, with women owing more and requiring more time to pay off their loans. Women with high school degrees have the lowest wage gap by education, earning 78 percent of men’s wages.
Women of every age and race experience the wage gap, but women of color are especially impacted. Latina women face the largest gap, earning 54 cents to every dollar paid white men.
Field of occupation can make a difference, but often not in the ways one would expect. Women who pursue careers in male-dominated fields, as truck drivers, software developers or financial managers for example, all earn less than men in their field. Women truck drivers see the lowest wage gap of 16 percent, while women in financial management earn only 65% of men’s wages. Meanwhile, men who similarly defy gender stereotypes out-earn women in traditionally female jobs as teachers and nurses, a phenomenon known as the ‘glass elevator.’ In fields approaching gender parity, like medicine, where 1 in 3 physicians are women, we still see a gap, with women earning nearly $20,000 less per year than their male colleagues.
Even in highly specialized, skill-based fields, women are not compensated on par with men. In March, the U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team announced plans to boycott the Women’s World Championship in response to stalled negotiations over fair wages and equitable support, including youth team development, equipment, staffing and promotion of women’s hockey. USA Hockey spends $3.5 million on its development program for boys, with no comparable program for women. The league also provided disability insurance for only the men’s team.
Unequal pay, development and prize money exists across women’s sports. Billie Jean King fought for and won equal prize money for women’s tennis in the US Open in 1973. Forty years later, the US women’s soccer team is still fighting for equal pay and prize money. The winning men’s soccer team received $35 million at the last World Cup. The women’s prize? $2 million.
Less than three days before the Championship, USA Hockey agreed to increase player wages from $6,000 every four years to a base salary of $4,000 per month, provide equal insurance and travel accommodations for men and women players, increased promotion, and the creation of a committee to develop girls’ hockey, in a victory for women’s hockey, and all women who are ready to #BeBoldForChange.
Women are not the only ones being bold -- men are stepping up and joining the fight for pay equity as well. The US men’s hockey team voiced their support for the women’s strike, and threatened to join the boycott. CEOs like Salesforce’s Marc Benioff are putting their money behind equity; Salesforce spent $3 million equalizing salaries in 2015. At this year’s Super Bowl, auto manufacturer Audi made waves with an ad supporting equal pay.
We’ve also seen the introduction of legislation, at home and abroad, that would move us closer to pay equity. In Iceland, proposed legislation would require employers to prove they pay men and women equally. In Illinois, legislation has been introduced to prohibit employers from asking for a salary history, a practice that perpetuates wage inequality.
If current trends continue, women won’t see equal pay until sometime in the next century. But if women are willing to stand up and speak out, with supportive men as allies, we can all move closer to winning our goal.