The Wage Gap: Myth or Reality?

By Kjerstyn Jordheim, Age 15 


The wage gap is an especially popular and controversial topic in the news, but do most people really know what is?

   Currently, women make approximately 77 cents for every dollar a man makes.  Pay discrimination has been around for ages, although data has only been collected since 1963, due to the Equal Pay Act, which was signed around that time.  The pay gap became an issue in the 1960s, when enough women began working the same full-time jobs as men to compare.  Since then, the gap has closed by 18 cents per man’s dollar.  That equates to less than half a cent per year.  This makes it all the more laudable when women succeed in the workforce, when they are not given the same monetary opportunities as men in the same positions.

   If you search “wage gap” on the Internet, there are millions of search results that all seem to offer confusing information.  What is the truth?  Between hundreds of organizations and different viewpoints, I found the following information sorting through cyberspace.

1. There is not a large amount of truly credible – unbiased, fact/data-based – information about the supposed “wage gap” out there.  Almost all sources were either feminist organizations, which may have truthful information but come across as rather biased.  Many sources were sites like Wikipedia that are often viewed as not credible because of their open editing freedom.  Conversely, there were hundreds of sites that took the position that feminism is completely unnecessary.  There were also a few government sites and human rights groups sites, which showed largely data-based information.

 2. White women earn about 80 cents per every white man’s dollar.  The wage gap is even wider for minority women: 63 cents per man’s dollar for African American women and 54 cents per man’s dollar for Hispanic women.

3. If the wage gap continues closing at its current rate, it will take until 2059 for white women and men to make the same amount of money.  The wage gap could be around for currently young adult females for possibly the majority of their careers.  

4. Statistics for Hispanic and African American women are even more compelling: the years at which they will make the same amount as their male counterparts are   2248 and 2124, respectively.  The wage gap could be around for minority females for their lifetime and their children or grandchildren’s lifetimes

   There is absolutely no excuse to pay someone less because of gender and/or race.  The dream of a better life achieved through hard work applies to all of us, not a select few.  In the modern world we live in, society and jobs should not be discriminating.  

   The wage gap is not a myth.  It is a serious problem that needs to be addressed both by our country’s leaders and by all of us in the United States and across the world.  In Iceland, women are paid 14% less than their male counterparts, and 15.1% less in France.  The greatest wage gap is 36.6%, in South Korea; the smallest is 5.6%, in New Zealand.  

   Because of the wage gap, women lack the ability to save as much for retirement as men do, and their everyday financial choices are limited.  About 50% of households rely on a woman as either the primary or solitary earner for the family.  The wage gap impacts all of us: women, children, and men alike.  

    Ending the wage gap is a daunting task.  The best way to bring about change is through advocacy.  If we all stand up for equality, our voices will be heard together.  Only hard work in this way will change the set minds of our nation’s leaders.Several organizations are actively working to help pass new laws and bills to bring equal pay to all.  One such organization is the American Association of University Women, which helps bring awareness to the pay gap and its consequences, as well as working to bring about several new bills to prevent bias in the workplace. Another organization is the National Committee on Pay Equity, which provides a 10 step guide for businesses to assess their own equality.  NCPE also has a guide on contacting members of Congress to campaign for equal rights governmentally.  Finally, NCPE works through WAGE Clubs, small community groups of women that meet together to talk about issues such as the wage gap.  

 Here are some wonderful resources for learning more about the wage gap and taking action to end it.


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