The articles I read seemed to suggest that the mere act of being born with a vagina entitled employers to a 25% discount for my services.
Why should I get paid less money than a man with the same level of experience and the same job duties? It just didn’t make sense. There had to be another explanation.
As a black woman, there are several cards I can play when I suspect I’m being treated unfairly. The two most obvious ones are:
- You’re-Just-Treating-Me-This-Way-Because-I’m-Black! Card
- You’d-Never-Treat-Me-This-Way-If-I-Were-A-Guy! Card
I try to save my Black Card and Woman Card for times when they’re really worth playing. By doing so, I focus on the “shortcomings” that I control.
After all, there’s nothing I want to change or feasibly can change about my race or my sex.
Although the gender pay gap is closing, it’s still unsettling that women earn considerably less money than their male counterparts.
So, what are the real reasons men are paid higher wages than women?
By taking a close look at the answer to this question, perhaps we can discover how to increase our incomes by doing what the boys do.
Here are five reasons why men out earn women.
Good Ol’ Fashioned Sexism
Let’s get this out of the way first so that we can move on to the fun stuff.
There are some people who believe, consciously or subconsciously, that men are more adept. And as a result, these people conclude men deserve more money. I know, it’s frustrating.
It’s also frustrating that unattractive people, short people, and overweight people receive salaries lower than those who are the opposite of all those things. Such is life.
To the extent you have the desire to fight these injustices at the macro level, you should.
Side Note: Ever wonder how all of this gender pay discrimination can take place when the human resource profession is dominated by women? I’m just saying – it’s peculiar, is all.
Women Tend to Shy Away from Higher Paying Professions
Women typically gravitate towards fields that don’t pay well, e.g., social work, child care, administrative, and primary and secondary education.
If earning a relatively substantial income is important to you, you have to follow the money.
For a while, the money has been in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) related occupations.
Females comprise only about 12% of all engineers, yet it’s one of the best-paying and fastest-growing fields. Only 6.3% of engineering managers are women, and they make a median of $1,752 each week, or about $91,000 per year. From aerospace and chemical engineers to computer software and civil engineers, women are in the minority. – Forbes.com
Of course you could theorize that salaries would take a nosedive if significantly more women targeted STEM careers.
In which case, we’d have to ask “why?” And the question may not be easily answered with “sexism.”
A better question is, why do women allow themselves to get paid less than they’re worth? Which brings us to my next point.
Women Don’t Negotiate
Our fear of haggling impairs both our current and future earnings.
It’s important to negotiate as high a salary as possible at the beginning of your career because it follows you throughout your profession.
Have you ever noticed that when you’re applying for a new job, your prospective employer asks how much you were paid at your previous employer(s)?
It may seem irrelevant, but I actually think the question is fair. If your last employer thought you were worth only $40K a year, then why on earth should I pay you $80K?
Women also don’t ask for salary increases nearly as often as men. According to CareerBuilder.com, “men ask for raises 85 percent more often than women do.”
Ye have not, because ye ask not.
Women Work Fewer Hours
I don’t know which sex is more productive at work, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s assume men and women spend an equal percentage of their work day on Facebook.
Okay, this factoid might sting a little bit, but here goes: Men spend more hours at work than women.
Full-time working men of my northern North American neighbor spend 3.7 hours more per week than the ladies. (Thanks for pointing this out, Canada.)
That means you may not even be able to fairly compare the salaries of men and women who are doing the same job.
For instance, if a woman works 45 hours a week and her salary is $50K a year, while a man, with the same job title, works 49 hours a week and gets paid $55K a year, the disparity in pay isn’t as large as it would be if they were working the same number of hours.
Plus, politicking plays a role in your compensation and upward career mobility.
If your colleague comes in earlier than you and leaves later, unless he’s picking his toenails in the morning and his nose in the evening, he’ll likely give the impression that he’s more dedicated to the company’s success than you.
Women Spend Less Time in the Work Force
Women are far more likely than men to leave the workforce to take care of children or ailing loved ones. These are noble and often necessary causes to put your career on hold.
Unfortunately, doing so will cost you more than the pay you forego while you’re not working. When you’re on a career hiatus, you’re generally not securing promotions, getting raises, developing new skills, or doing other activities that increase your marketability.
Since women remain largely responsible for the burden/joy of caring for others who can’t care for themselves, we have to plan.
One solution is to seek out working arrangements that allow us to earn a good living and work from home.
While attending a DC Tech Meetup last week, I met Ryan Seashore, founder of CodeNow. CodeNow is a non-profit organization that helps underrepresented youth – many of them girls – learn computer programming.
Mr. Seashore believes computer programming is one such skill that women can use to generate income from home as their families grow.
I think it’s awesome that more opportunities are opening up for women (and men) to fulfill their longing to financially support their families without having to spend as much time away from them.
Even though sexism is the cause for a portion of the wage gap between the sexes, it certainly isn’t the only cause.
What else can women do to earn their worth in the workplace?