Gender Pay Gap: Is There a Wage Gap Between the Sexes?

The gender pay gap – also called gender wage gap – is the average difference between hourly compensations of men and women. In the rich and middle-income countries that are members of the OECD – Organization for Economic Co-operation and Developmentthe middle wage of a woman working full-time is 85% that of a man. The gender pay gap is different from unequal pay. In fact, the gender pay gap does not mean that women are paid less than men when doing the same job. Thanks to the introduction of the Equal Pay Act, this has been illegal since 1970. Then, what exactly is the gender wage gap?

Gender Wage Gap

There are two main reasons why women earn less than men. First of all, there are more women than men in positions with lower wages and a small chance of promotion. Moreover, women and men are segregated between occupations and industries. The jobs favoured by women pay less. The number of women in positions of power and relevance is very low. Women tend to opt for jobs where there is a higher chance of working with other women. In addition, the jobs dominated by women are generally of a lower status and are paid less.

Researches have tried to examine the reaction of candidates of different sexes to ads for the same job position. They discovered that job ads which employed stereotypically masculine words were perceived as less tempting because they assumed that those workplaces would be dominated by men. The same kind of reaction was registered in men who read job ads imbued with stereotypes of workplaces dominated by women. However, attempts at encouraging girls to studying science and engineering have somehow worked, while persuading boys to work as teachers or nurses has turned out to be much harder. Even though, if compared to the past, now women ask for promotion at the same rate as men, and they are promoted more as well. However, women are still less likely to be promoted if they want to start a family or are likely to do so.

Motherhood Penalty

Another factor which contributes to the gender wage gap is the motherhood penalty. Between 45 and 75% of women with children at home earn less after becoming mothers since they opt for fewer working hours or for less demanding jobs. Therefore, mothers who prioritize their children fall behind both career-wise and money-wise. In some countries mothers have to leave their jobs because society expects that and sees working mothers as harmful for young children; in other countries child care costs too much and parents cannot afford it.

Government policies do not help at all this situation. One example is the fact that fathers in many countries still do not have the right to take parental leave when they have a baby. This means that most of the times couples decide that it is more advantageous for the woman to stop working simply because she is a mother.

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