April 10 marked Equal Pay Day this year. If that sounds like something to celebrate, it isn’t. Equal Pay Day is about showing how much more work women must do before they have earned the same salary as men. An average man who began work on January 1, 2017 and ended work on December 31, 2017 earned the same amount as a woman who worked from January 1, 2017 to April 10, 2018.
The gender pay gap is a pernicious and complex problem. Equal Pay Day is just one of the ways people try to keep the problem in the public consciousness. While progress has been made in shrinking the gap, the problem is far from solved.
A problem on multiple fronts
When people consider the gender pay gap, they probably think of the classic discriminatory practice of paying women less than men for the same work. This type of discrimination certainly does go on, but it is not the only way women are at a disadvantage in securing equal pay. A large part of the gap is caused by sex segregation. Sex segregation refers to the industries or jobs that are predominantly male or female. For example, 88 percent of maids, housekeepers and cleaners are female, whereas 88 percent of electrical and electronics engineers are male.
Sex segregation is a harder problem to solve than classic discrimination by salary. The factors that contribute to sex segregation start the day we are born in some ways. Employers have a part to play in solving the problem, but they are not alone in creating it. Society as a whole must recognize the barriers women face in earning a living. Just because the pay gap is not an easy problem to solve does not mean that we can afford to ignore it.
Source: FiveThirtyEight “The Pay Gap Is Way Too Entrenched To Be Solved By Women Alone,” by Maggie Koerth-Baker, 10 April 2018