Why Women Are Still Paid Less Than Men in 2019

Man and woman at work


April 15, 2024 at 5:38AM UTC

Mark Twain once said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” When it comes to the gender pay gap, there seems to be a never-ending stream of statistics and data about whether there’s a pay gap, how much of one there is, and if there is one — what causes it. 

In these debates about the gender pay gap, there’s an unspoken assumption by some people that maybe there actually is no issue with the fact that men and women get paid differently — so long as those reasons are because of the different choices that men and women make, their experience or education levels.

What is the gender pay gap?

In 2016, women in America earned just more than about 80 percent as much as their male counterparts — $0.85 for every dollar earned by men. This is up from 79.6 cents in 2015, but this increase marks the first statistically significant annual increase since 2007.

Why are women paid less than men?

In short, after controlling for pretty much everything that could be controlled for, there’s still a difference of 7% in total compensation between men and women that can’t be explained. Perhaps that remaining difference is due to discrimination or bias, but it’s hard to say. Moreover, this Fortune analysis points out just how complex the gender pay gap issue is. Just because something is “explainable” doesn’t mean it is not based or related to bias and discrimination.
In other words, do women opt not to study, and work in certain job titles, employers and industries because they are dissuaded by bias or culture there? If the answer is “yes”, just because there is an explanation doesn’t mean that explanation is perfectly benign. Moreover, does age and years of experience matter if two people are doing the identical job?
Progressive employers such as Salesforce, Intel, Apple and Accenture, among others have conducted internal gender pay audits. We don’t know the exact details of these audits but many have described the key to equalizing pay between men and women at their firms is to simply pay according to the job function performed rather than look at historical salaries, or other measures. The basic idea is that if you get a job, you should get paid what that job is worth irrespective of your education or years of experience.
Whatever the reason for the gender pay gap, sometimes we think it’s important to step away from the weeds and look at the bigger picture. Whatever the reason for average pay differences between men and women, I think most of us would do well to consider the fact that there is no country in the world where women make more than men.

Current women's pay statistics:

Here are some current statistics to keep you abreast of where women stand (it's mostly* encouraging!):

  • According to KPMG’s Women's Study Report, 69 percent of women are willing to proactively ask to get themselves involved in a project. Meanwhile, 66 percent are willing to take on a project that is totally new to them.
  • According to McKinsey and LeanIn’s Women in The Workplace 2018 Report, women negotiate for raises just as often as men do. In fact, in the last two years alone, women negotiated for raises more than men. Specifically, while just 29 percent of men had negotiated for raises in the last two years, 31 percent of women negotiated for raises.
  • Mothers are the primary or sole earners in 40 percent of households with children under age 18, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For reference, in 1960, they only made up 11 percent of primary or sole earners.

Current women's education statistics:

  • Women are more likely to have earned a bachelor’s degree by age 29, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While 34 percent of women have earned a bachelor’s degree by age 29, only 26 percent of men have done the same.
  • The proportion of women in the labor force who've earned college degrees has nearly quadrupled since 1970, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Current women's employment statistics:

  • More women are owning their own businesses, according to Womenable. Between 1997 and 2014, the total number of women-owned businesses in the United States increased by 68 percent.
  • After serving in the military, women veterans are much more likely to continue to serve their country as government workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, three out of 10 women will continue their work for the government in some capacity after service.
  • A total of 70 percent of mothers with children under the age of 18 are in the labor force. Also, 75 percent of working mothers with children under age 18 work full-time, according to the Department of Labor.
  • According to own research from The Salary Project™, women are searching for new job opportunities. Despite over 65 percent of respondents reporting that they are indeed happy at work, 70 percent of total respondents are still always on the hunt for more opportunities.
  • Since 2015, the first year of a McKinsey study, corporate America has made virtually no progress in improving women’s representation in the workplace. Women are underrepresented at every level, with women of color being the most underrepresented group of all.

Quick FAQs:

Is it illegal to pay women less than men?

The Equal Pay Act of 1963, which was signed by President John F. Kennedy, made it illegal to pay men and women working in the same place different salaries for similar work. American women's salaries have risen over 70% since the law was enacted. However, its goals have not been completely achieved for several reasons, including the difficulty of proving sex discrimination in pay policies. 

Is the gender pay gap legal?

Technically, no. The Equal Pay Act of 1963, signed by President Kennedy, made it illegal to pay women less than men for similar work. However, several factors have made it complicated to  completely close the pay gap.

Is there a gender pay gap in Australia?

Yes. Australia has had a gender pay gap of between 14% and 19% for the last 20 years. Western Australia has the largest gender pay gap of any state or territory in Australia, with the gap hovering around 26% in 2015.

Is there equal pay in India?

Does America have equal rights?

Many people believe America does not legally grant equal rights to all citizens on the basis of sex. That's why the Equal Rights Amendment, a proposed amendment to the U.S. constitution, has been designed. Its language would guarantee equal legal rights to all American citizens regardless of their sex, and seeks to end distinctions between men and women in terms of divorce, property, employment and some other legal matters. 

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