Three quarters of a man. That’s what women in the U.S. are worth – economically speaking. On average, women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. How can such discrepancies continue to exist? Here are some ideas:
- Women start their working careers earning one-quarter to a third less than men. Many studies have demonstrated that women don’t ask for higher pay in their first jobs. Linda Babcock, a Carnegie Mellon University economics professor, says that men are eight times more likely than women to negotiate their starting pay packages. This gets compounded as women progress through their careers, since they consistently don’t ask for raises, promotions, better job assignments and recognition. But men do.
- Women take time off to care for children and/or adult relatives, which can penalize them severely in the workforce re-entry process.
- Women are often clustered in low-paying jobs, a phenomenon known as occupational sex segregation. Certain jobs (think nursing, teaching, secretarial work) are predominantly held by women and the pay is correspondingly low.
- Lack of transparency in salary, bonus and promotion decisions severely hinders women’s ability to advance
- Certain “extreme” industries, like finance, investment banking and media, that require 60-plus workweeks, intense worldwide communications, the need to be “on” at all times and a love of the adrenaline rush, do not foster female-friendly working conditions.
- Bias and direct discrimination are factors. Numerous studies over the past two decades have demonstrated subtle and not-so-subtle evidence of bias against women in (1) recruitment and selection processes, (2) promotion and pay decisions, (3) preconceptions and stereotypes about women’s suitability for leadership roles, and (4) exclusion from informal communication networks.