The Gender Wage Gap: Myth or Reality?

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Updated: Sep 07, 2023
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Gender inequality has been a persistent issue in the workforce. The gender wage gaps shows the difference between male and female workers’ earnings. In the modern day economy, women are typically paid less than men. The Equal Pay Act was passed in the U.S. on June 10, 1963, it was the beginning of achieving equal economic opportunity for women however, it alone did not solve the issue. In further effort to put an end to the century-old gender wage inequality, Congress attempted to pass the Women’s Equal Pay Act in 1945 but the measure failed to pass (History.

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com editors). Despite the wishes of working women, this form of gender/economic discrimination has yet to be entirely eliminated. There are some critics who believe that the gender wage gap no longer exists in the twenty-first century.

By taking into consideration wage percentages (direct pay discrimination), occupational segregation with a bias against working mothers and the fact that it has been occurring since women were put into the workforce it can be proven that pay discrimination remains a relevant issue in the modern workforce economy. It is a completely unfair situation that demands and deserves attention. The wage gap exists because men have been receiving better pay for working the same jobs as women. Renee Morad, a writer from NBC news, started her article about the gender wage gap by using commonly known statistics regarding the fact that “Women make 80.5 cents for every dollar a man earns” (Morad).

The existence of the gap in the twenty-first century can be proven by looking at the direct difference in pay, which this article shares is 80.5 cents to the male dollar. American Political cartoonist Tom Toles, in his cartoon The Woman on the $10 bill, portrays a US working woman on the $10 bill. The Federal Reserve note on the cartoon, however, is only worth $7.70 because it represents how much a woman would actually make out of that ten dollars. Around this image of a woman are phrases like “The Unequal Pay of America” and “Hugh Ken Wait” (Toles).

The idea behind this cartoon is the gender wage gap and the mockery of the government wanting to place a woman on the ten dollar note when do not even earn the same “ten dollars” a male does. Critics believe that it is unjust to consider the wage gap real because it only exists due to the fact that women work less than men.

Founder and President of the Network of Enlightened Woman, Karin Agness refutes the opposing argument that women make “77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men” because she argues that “The latter gives the impression that a man and a woman standing next to each other doing the same job for the same number of hours get paid different salaries. That’s not the case. ‘Full time’ officially means 35 hours, but men work more hours than women” (Agness). She states that men who work more hours than women can not have their salaries compared because it is not fair to have them equally paid for men doing more work.

In opposition to Karin Agness’ beliefs, CNBC’s Emma Newburger presents commonly cited U.S. Census Bureau data. This data illustrates that “Women working full-time earned 80 percent of what men earned in 2018” (Newburger). Women who are working the same amount of hours as men yet are still unfairly coming out with smaller wages. According to a study cited by Shilpa Phadke and Diana Boesch, in 2017 full-time working women only made a median earning of $41,977, which is about 80.5 percent of what full-time working men were earning (Padke and Boesch).

Just this week on Friday March 8th, 28 women on the US National Soccer team sued due to gender discrimination, specifically for being paid less than the mens national team (Martins). Even though the women’s team puts just as many hours into practice AND has seen more victories than the men’s teamt they are subjected to the same treatment everyday working women face due to the dreadful gender wage gap. Critics can not deny the data that proves in the twenty-first century women still make less than men.

The direct pay discrimination which can be viewed by analyzing wage percentages is brought on by occupational segregation. Occupational segregation based on gender is largely seen in the US labor force in modern times. While yes some jobs have integrated to mostly include both men and women many; however, others see a majority of workers being predominantly one gender.

Occupational segregation is the separation of women or people of color into lower-paying jobs (Phadke and Boesch). This is an issue because according to the studies conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, “average earnings tend to be lower the higher the percentage of female workers in an occupation” (Ariane Hegewisch, Hannah Liepmann, Jeff Hayes and Heidi Hartmann). Occupations such as Registered nurses, secretaries, elementary and middle school teachers, bookkeepers/accounting, etc are among some of the largest occupations for women.

A graph assimilated by the American Association of University Women shows that there are around 2,092,489 women employed as registered nurses. These women earned about $65,612 while male earnings round up to about $71,590 (Vagins). It seems highly unfair that women who fill these positions such as registered nurses are subjected to this lack of justice. Critics that refute the gender wage gap, state that it doesn’t take into account the difference in education between males and females and is also the reason behind more of one gender filling an occupation (Agness).

This argument is not valid because in the 21st century a college degree of some sort is required for almost every occupation. Why is there a 78% pay ratio with a $17,293,000,000 profession gap between genders working as Accountants and auditors when they are both required to have the same amount of education to enter that occupation? They can not claim that the difference in wages is solely dependent on the difference in education because in 2006 more woman earned a doctorate degree and in 2013 it was estimated that “ women will earn 61.6% of all associate’s degrees this year, 56.7% of all bachelor’s degrees, 59.9% of all master’s degrees, and 51.6% of all doctor’s degrees” (Kirst).

The pay gap women face in the twenty-first century must be caused by gender discrimination, clearly it can not be only caused by the belief that women are not educated enough. It is no secret that working mothers do have family obligations that can occasionally conflict with work. Working women provide economic support for their families with around 4.1 million women working multiple jobs to take care of their families (Phadke and Boesch). Regardless of the fact that many women are the primary source of income for their families they still are not seeing equal wages that many of them desperately need.

The pay gap threatens the economic security of both low and middle income families, chiefly the families that solely depend on the income of women. Discriminatory pay makes it difficult for women to financially survive in America while trying to balance a job and family. If there were more policies in support of Women that work and raise a family the wage gap may not be as large as it is in the twenty-first century. Working mothers are seen as “not committed” so when applying to a job, “being a mother reduced the chance that a candidate would be offered the job by 37 percentage points. The recommended salary for mothers who were offered the job was $11,000 less on average than for childless female candidates” (Goldstein).

A bias against working mothers contributes to the gender wage gaps existence in the twenty-first century, they were paid even less than the average working female. The gender wage gap has been an ongoing battle since women were first put into the workforce. It has remained an issue because not enough has been done to stop it. People have become accustomed, even getting their children used to it at such a young age.

The gender pay gap starts early in the childhood of young girls. Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, senior vice president at Charles Schwab and daughter of the firm’s founder’s study showed that “the wage gap starts at home, with boys earning twice as much as girls for doing household chores each week”(Morad). Because parents have been subjecting their own children to the same conditions of the actual difference in pay, in is not shock that it has continued into the twenty-first century, people tend to habitually do what they are accustomed to.

The gender wage gap continues to grow with this country with each generation being exposed to a smaller scale of it as a child. There have been attempts to put an end to the gap with the introduction of the Paycheck Fairness Act which Republicans have vetoed it four times. Democrats have been trying to pass this bill for 20 years in hopes of once and for all closing the gap, but “Republicans have also called the bill unnecessary, since gender discrimination is already illegal…” (Newburger).

The real reason Republicans do not want this bill to pass is because it would allow workers to sue for the damages caused by discrimination. Women deserve to receive equal pay for there work. It’s quite ironic that Republicans deemed this bill unnecessary because since the Trump Administration’s official take over in 2017, the wage gap between male and female White House staff members has significantly went up ( Ingraham).

The current Trump gender gap in the White House has been said to even be higher than the national gap in the 1980’s. Pay discrimination has been a part of American economics because despite the efforts of some, little has actually been done to stop it. In the twenty-first century many rights of women have still not been acknowledged by the Constitution. With no actual amendment passed to stop the gender wage gap, it unfortunately continues to live on. Some critics, such as many members of the Grand Old Party, have been too blind to realize the truth behind this form of modern day discrimination. Based on actual wage percentages when comparing men and women’s pay there is a clear difference between full-time employees.

Women have been subjected to occupational segregation and been pushed to believe it is because of their lack of education but it can be proved that this is not true when looking at necessary degrees require to work certain jobs. Employers tend to be biased toward mothers or women becoming mothers and because of this either will pay them less, or be less likely to hire them. These working mothers struggle to both work and raise a family while staying financially stable. Society needs to stop forcing this experience on each generation and find a way to not just slightly improve this injustice but to put an end to it, preferably within the next century.

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The Gender Wage Gap: Myth or Reality?. (2020, Mar 05). Retrieved from