I recently read that in 2014, the top 34 highest-paid actors earned $941 million, compared to the 18 highest-paid actresses who earned $281 million. I couldn’t help but wonder, why are we still talking about a gender wage gap?
This endemic issue is caused not by finite resources or a lack of information, but rather by a lack of interest and action. And, as a woman, I can’t even put words to how discouraged this makes me feel.
In a world where our incomes and professional opportunities primarily define us, what are we saying when 50 percent of the world’s population is not equally compensated for equal work?
How can we explain to our children that we have failed — despite all our accomplishments as a society — to guarantee equal pay, regardless of gender?
The gender wage gap, defined as “as the difference between median earnings of men and women relative to median earnings of men,” is a prevalent issue in our society, although the degree varies by country. For example, in OECD countries, women may earn as much as 80 percent as men, or as little as 60 percent.
In 2014 in the US, the wage gap was calculated at roughly 79 percent, indicating that on average, women earned 79 cents for every dollar that a man did. This is an improvement from the 59 percent level of the 1970s, but we are nowhere near an ideal reality.
The US is not alone in failing to achieve a respectable standard. Currently, there are no countries in the entire world where a woman is paid equally for doing the same job as a man.
This gap is even more dramatic for women of color. African-American and Hispanic women in the US earn as little as 64 percent and 56 percent (respectively) as their male counterparts.
Even for recent graduates, women will earn only 82 percent of what their "similarly educated and experienced male counterparts" will be offered.
But what does this mean? Well, in the US, it means women annually lose an average of $10,085.
From an economic perspective, this deficiency is significant. As a country that has an interest in global competitiveness, we should be paying close attention to how we utilize the talents of both genders in the workforce.
However, let’s put economics, politics and statistics aside for a minute, and talk about why this really matters.
The gender wage gap is a testament to our society, and it speaks to how society views women. The gap says we aren’t equal to men, and we aren’t even valued as much as men. We aren’t worth as much as our fathers, brothers, husbands and sons. Our brains aren’t as smart, our time is not as important, and our lives are not as essential.
This may sound dramatic, but it's the truth. In failing to remedy an issue that should have been addressed decades ago, our country is perpetuating the idea our gender defines us more than anything else we could ever accomplish.
People should be paid according to their skill levels, and everyone should have an equal opportunity in the fields of education and employment.
Unfortunately, there’s no simple solution to this ongoing problem. A government cannot simply close the gap by paying the difference.
Instead, employers need to be incentivized to monitor and implement equal wages. Women must also be aware of the gender wage gap specific to their industries, and they must be able to negotiate better wages with their employers without the fear of job loss.
Further, the gender wage gap needs to remain an ongoing discussion in our society. We need need to promulgate this dialogue with campaigns that educate and encourage women to approach the issue of their incomes with employers.
There are many things we will come across in our lifetimes that we won’t have the power to change. There will be diseases we can’t cure, lives we can’t save and questions we can’t answer.
But to have skill and experience determine a person’s wage is not something we should leave for the next generation. Our paychecks should never reflect our gender, and it’s okay to bring this up with friends, with employers and with our leaders.
Anything less than equality is just not good enough.