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Closing the Gap: Gender Wage Discrimination

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Closing The Gap: A Gender Wage Discrimination Debate

 Gender inequality is amongst all of us in any given society.  Whether you are a man or a woman, gender inequality exists.  Sex makes up the biological differences; of male or female.  Gender is the socially learned behaviors that are attached to the sexes, which create gender roles.  Gender roles constitute the attitudes that are expected of males and females in a given culture of society.  It is these gender roles that give the impact of gender inequality amongst the male and female sex.  

Gender roles are not given to us at birth.  Gender roles are to be learned and taught amongst those surrounding one at an early age, and the society and culture one lives in.  Gender roles are often learned and taught by those who have raised them, which is often one’s family.  One’s family has the biggest impact on how people perceive their gender.

Since gender roles are learned at such a young age, women and men tend to find themselves fitting into where they should be in a family institution.  In many families the woman holds most of the responsibility in keeping it together, and the men are known to be the financial breadwinners of the family.  Women take the role of the mother, the nurturer, the caretaker, the cook, the cleaner and the lover.  This is an overwhelming amount of work to take on, but in the long run the male takes the credit for supporting the family.  We have these expectations of women and men; we underestimate the ability to try new things.  If a woman goes out to get a job, she will be treated differently because of her gender.  Also it is assumed that the man would not be able to handle household responsibilities.  With gender inequality in the family life, men and women are treated differently beyond the home life. Women are home raising the children and preparing them for the world and men are out getting things done and getting paid for it.  It is the idea of payment for work that is over looked.  Women do not receive payment for raising the family and doing household chores, they only receive acknowledgement that they are doing what they are taught to do.  It is this gender discrimination that has and continues to cause friction between men and women.  The underestimation of women in the workforce, implies to society that women are out of place in the workforce and thus should be treated as such.    

One of the biggest examples of gender inequality is the wage discrimination amongst males and females.  Around the world and in every culture there is some sort of gender inequality taking place. The gender pay gap measures the earning differences between women and men in paid employment in the labor market. It is one of many indicators of gender inequality in any given country, Including the United States. Recent research findings suggest that Women in The United States workforce earn 79 cents for every dollar a man earns (Baig 3) .  The existence of this “gender wage gap” has been a policy issue worldwide ever since women entered the workforce.  With my research I will provide evidence that supports the idea of gender wage equality and reasons why wage discrimination should no longer exist.    

You would think things would have changed since the 1970s in regards to women in the work force, however you would be wrong.  Although the number of women entering the work force has increased since the 1970s the number has steadily slowed down.  30.3 million women joined the work force in the 1970s and as of the 2010 census, 72.7 million women were in the work force (Baig 3).  Now, that may sound like a good start, and it is, but for the most part those women hold occupations which have been traditionally oriented towards women. Women make up 96.3 percent of dental assistants, 95.9 percent of secretaries, and 91.2 percent of registered nurses, all of which are female oriented occupations (Baig 4).  It is within the occupational standings where we see the least amount of change in the workforce over the past 45 years.  In 1970 the three main occupations for women were secretaries, bookkeepers, and elementary school teacher (Baig 4).  Fast forward to present day and the three main occupations for women are secretaries, nurses, and elementary school teachers. All of these occupations are poorly paid occupations, and even within these occupations women are paid less than their male colleagues (Baig 4).

A common denominator in this issue is our own culture.  Our culture has not changed very dramatically over the last 45 years.  We are beginning to see the change but it is taking place at a very slow rate It is just now that we are seeing certain industries opening up to the idea of women taking on different roles.  For example, the automobile industry is just now seeing its first female CEO.  Mary Barra became the CEO of general motors in 2013 which made her the first woman to lead a global automaker (Baig 2).  Of course there are now others, such as Marissa Mayer who became the CEO of Yahoo in 2012 (Baig 2).  These examples are of women who have succeeded in their chosen field, but for many others, differences in wages and occupation segregation continue to be a reality.  The most recent data shows that women earn 79 cents for every dollar a man earns  (Baig 3).  This may not be true for all women and certainly it depends on occupations, but nonetheless this issue exists and must be addressed.  

In general, the two main reasons for the pay gap can be identified as direct gender discrimination and occupational segregation.  “Direct discrimination occurs

when people who have the same level of educational attainment and work experience are

treated differently because of their gender: different pay levels for the same work or different

job requirements for the same pay level” (EI, 2).  This is the main idea we think of when it comes to discrimination in the work place.  The second reason is occupational segregation.  This idea of occupation segregation is the concept that men are to work in certain occupations like accountants, doctors, construction workers, or any job that one would look at as “mans work”, while women are to work in fields such as nanny’s, cooks, secretaries, and school teachers.  “46.3 percent of employed women work in the services sector, 35.4 percent in the agricultural sector and only 18.3 percent in the industrial sector” (ILO, 2).  The industrial sector has often been looked at as “man’s work”, and as you can see only 18.3 percent of women work in the industrial industry.  This all comes back to the idea of occupational segregation. Men and women segregate themselves to certain occupations.  The specific sectors which women are the vast majority are teachers, secretaries, and nurses, all of which are poorly paid occupations (IWPR, 1).  This idea of occupational segregation has been noted by researchers as the selection effect.  “The selection effect implies not only that women choose certain kinds of occupations, but that employers are favoring men over women by not adapting the work environment to suit both genders” (EI, 3).  This effect is something women have been putting up with for years, and continue to put up with.  Companies are more willing to adapt for a man rather than a woman because they look at men as more valuable than women.  



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