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Author: Samantha Samel

The Gender Pay Gap is Alive and Well; What Can We Do About it?

Posted December 29, 2016

Despite increased media attention, the gender wage gap is steadily persisting. Actress Amy Adams has joined many other celebrities in publicizing the issue; recently, she said that she doesn’t “want to be a headline anymore about pay equality.” But with the gender pay gap persevering as it has, we unfortunately must face the sad reality that this very quote did become a headline.

Recently released research from PayScale.com makes clear and highlights the divisions between men’s and women’s pay and job levels in America. In 2015, the median pay for women was $44,300 – 77% less than the men’s median of $58,000, PayScale found. This past year, the gap actually increased, with the median for women dipping below 75% the corresponding men’s figure ($44,800 vs. $60,200). The report analyzes data collected from more than 1.8 million workers between October 2014 and October 2016.

There are two main causes of this massive inequality: men, for the most part, occupy significantly higher and more well-paid positions than women do; and even when differences in position and length of experience are accounted for, men still enjoy somewhat higher pay than similarly situated women.

In addition to gathering data on salary, PayScale asked approximately 80,000 workers whether they feel their gender has prevented them from receiving a raise and/or promotion. While only 3.5% of males said yes, 18.5% of females answered in the affirmative.

Gender Gaps in Job Level

Across all age groups surveyed (respondents were between 20 and 65 years old), there is a higher percentage of women than men in “individual contributor level” jobs – the lowest job level included in the survey. That gap widens with age.  For example, for the 20- to 25-year olds, 77% of men surveyed and 78.4% of women occupied such positions. However, by age 60-65, 44.5% of men and 60.6% of women continued to work at this level.

As you might expect, these patterns reverse as the job level increases. At nearly ever single age group, the percentage of men occupying higher level positions – such as “manager or supervisor level,” “director level,” or “executive level” – is higher than the percentage of females in those roles. The disproportions start out relatively small; for 20- to 25-year-olds, 21.1% of men and 19.6% of women were in “manager or supervisor level” jobs. But those gaps increase with age; 40.5% men and 32.4% women at age 40 to 45 were in “manager or supervisor level” jobs.  The gap is even more pronounced with “executive level” positions, with men’s percentages more than doubling women’s at both age 40 to 45 and 60 to 65.

Gender Wage Gaps by Industry and by State

The gender pay gap certainly varies across industries, yet within every single industry included in the report (21 industries total), the median pay for men is higher than that for women. The wage gap is smaller in industries such as Educational Services and larger in industries such as Finance & Insurance, but no matter the type of job, there is a substantial gap.

The same goes for U.S. states – in every state across the country, there’s a gender pay gap, but the severity differs. When the survey controls for position level and experience, the gap still persists in 48 states, significantly in some, though in Vermont and Connecticut, the survey indicates that women actually enjoy a very slight advantage over similarly situated men.

Moving Forward

PayScale.com’s findings are bleak, but we do know that some companies are moving in the right direction. In early December, for example, the White House announced that an additional 44 companies signed the Equal Pay Pledge, joining dozens of other that have already committed to this goal.

And companies like Salesforce and Google have spoken publicly about their specific efforts to diminish the gender wage gap, which can inspire other companies to follow in their footsteps.

Salesforce CEO Marc Beinoff, for example, put his company’s reputation on the line when he publicly announced that he was conducting a compensation audit. When he found that there was in fact a gender wage gap at his company, he implemented a plan (with $3 million in funding) to resolve it.

The gender wage gap is an issue close to our hearts at Fairygodboss, where our mission is to improve the workplace for women by increasing transparency regarding issues such as equal compensation for women and whether employers are generally female-friendly.

Offering a place for women to anonymously review where they work based on their experiences regarding salary, maternity leave policies and whether men and women are treated equally (among other issues), Fairygodboss informs women who are making career decisions and also serves to inspire companies to improve their policies to attract and retain female employees.

There is much room for improvement, and there is still very much a gap that needs to be closed. In the meantime, we will continue to increase transparency surrounding the wage gap and other issues women face in the workplace. The first step toward diminishing the gap is making sure that people are well informed and able to knowledgeably participate in an open dialogue.

You can help Fairygodboss bring transparency and attention to the gender pay gap by sharing your salary here.

Samantha Samel is the editorial director at Fairygodboss, a company dedicated to improving the workplace for women by increasing transparency. The site offers a space for women to anonymously review their work experiences and also offers job listings, discussion boards, company ratings and career advice.