Why Women are Paid Less? The Issue of Equal Pay

Most observers of economic history would agree that the lives of many women have traditionally been filled with challenges. For many years, a primarily male-dominated society seemed to believe that a woman's place was in the home. From the very beginning, the Government of United States tried its level best to remove discrimination from the American Society. Congress had passed several amendments like thirteenth amendment, fourteenth amendment and fifteenth amendment to give equal rights and forbid racial discrimination.
 “Affirmative Action” was first used in 1965 by President Lyndon Johnson in Executive order 11246. In this Executive order he said that,
“The contractor will not discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The contractor will take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Such action shall include, but not be limited to the following: employment, upgrading, demotion, or transfer; recruitment or recruitment advertising; layoff or termination; rates of pay or other forms of compensation; and selection for training, including apprenticeship” (Executive order 11246, Subpart B, Section 202).
            In 1967, the Executive order has been expanded to include affirmative action to give the benefits to women also.  That view appeared to have faded to a great extent. Blatant female stereotyping appears to have diminished to some degree.
Many myths based on tradition and custom, have long surrounded women in the workplace. Situation gradually becomes better for women worker but still they are facing some discrimination and prejudices. They are not usually paid equal to their male counterpart, which is absolutely unethical, and illegal. If the large proportion of women worker continues to work in organizations in respectable positions they will soon be paid equally.
Issue of Equal pay:
United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, presented the following facts about women participation in labor force:
  • By the year 2000, 80 percent of women of working age are expected to be in the workforce
  • The majority of married women with children – 65 percent – held jobs in 1988, up from 50 percent in 1978, 37 percent in 1968, and only 27 percent in 1960 etc.
As women’s participation grew, they also realized that they had been mistreated in regard of payment. Government also took notice of this discrimination and Equal pay Act was passed on 1963.
A related hot issue in recent year has been that of comparable worth, which is defined as the argument that asserts that women should be paid as much as men for performing tasks in requiring comparable skills, training responsibilities, hazards, and effort. The proponent of comparable worth want to reduce sex discrimination in employment by eliminating the pay gap between female –dominated occupations, such as elementary school teaching, nursing and secretarial work, and most other jobs.
Women at present work in almost all fields but pay discrimination is an issue in every field for women worker. Whether woman is a lawyer who earns $373 per week or a secretary who earns $100 a week, they all are paid less than their male counterparts.  (AFL-CIO organization)
AFL-CIO and Institute for Women’s Policy Research had conducted a joint study in 1998 and compiled the following results:
  • Due to the wage gap between women and men, every family may lose $4,000 per year on average, which is equal to a sum of $200 billion per year
  • If a family working women is paid equal to the men then their poverty rate would fall from 2.1 percent to 0.8 percent and their earnings increase up to 6 percent
  • If single working mothers paid equal to their male counterpart, their poverty ratio fall from 25.3 percent to 12.6 percent and their earnings increase up to 17 percent
  • Similarly if single working women paid equal to working males their earning rise by 13.4 percent and their poverty ratio would fall from 6.3 percent to 1 percent (AFL-CIO organization)
United Census Bureau conducted a survey of 60, 000 households for United States Bureau of Labor statistics about the earnings of women in 2002. Statistics has depicted that women’s earnings has increased slightly as compare to their earnings in 2001. Survey results have shown that per week income of Women in 2002 is $530 per week as compared to $511 per week in 2001, while men earned $680 per week in 2002 as compared to $672 per week in 2001. Ratio of men and women earning is 78 percent in 2002 as compared to 76 percent in 2001 (US Department of Labor, 2002).  United States Census Bureau states that only about 2 percent of civil engineers, 13 percent of physicians, and a scant 4 percent of dentists are women. Less than 6 percent of all members of boards of directors are female. Yet, 99 percent of all secretaries are women (McQueen, 1987).
Why women are paid less?
Apart from all discrimination and prejudice there are some solid reasons also for the pay difference between men and women. First, there are certain jobs which are either traditionally held by men or women. For example, according to a conference board study, most domestic duties remain women’s work, even in the households where both husband and wife work. The survey revealed that the man of the house rarely cleans it and is even less likely to do the laundry. In the kitchen, fewer than 30 percent of all men wash the dishes frequently and only 25 percent cook on a regular basis (Cooking, Cleaning still Women’s work, 1987).
Many women remain stuck in jobs with little authority and relatively low pay. Although the executive suite originally seemed within their grasp, many women have found that barriers continue to keep them from higher positions. Only 2 percent of general manager positions were held by women, 15 of 599 managing directors at the five most prominent investment banks were women. Among the top 250 industrial corporations, only 1 had a woman chief financial officer (Carol and Timothy, 1986). Second, women neither have the equal working and job opportunities nor equal promotion, training and apprenticeship chances. These are the most important reasons for earning difference between men and women other than prejudice and discrimination.
Equal Pay Act:
As discussed earlier, Equal Pay act was passed in 1963, which requires employers “to provide equal pay for substantially equal work regardless of sex”. In other words, according to the law, a male secretary should not receive a higher salary than a female one. Most people would probably agree with the intent of the law. Situation has not changed much due to Equal pay Act. It has been observed that the gap between earnings of men and women remains the same in 90s as it was in 1955. At present a full time workingwoman earns 77 cents weekly as compared to 1 dollar weekly earned by men (AFL-CIO, Case for equal pay). This gap widens further in case of minority women. This act had not been taken seriously at states and federal level and people, who are against this bill, gave several arguments against equal Pay act like:
  • There is no significant wage gap and if there is any nominal gap it would soon correct itself:  this is totally wrong. Different statistics revealed that there exists a significant wage gap between men and women earnings, which is on average equal to $150 per week. Although the gap narrows per year but at current pace, women will be able to get equal share of payment after 2050. Furthermore this is not actually progress, the difference between male and female workers income is actually the result of decrease in men’s wages, the narrowness of the gap is not the acceleration towards the progress it is retardation
  • Pay equity may cause tax increases or layoffs: this is wrong too as none of the company, implemented pay equity, experienced lay offs or tax increases.  Equity of pay, on the other hand, increases self sufficiency among women and families and lessen the burden of Federal and states Governments
  • Wage Gap is due to the difference in education and experience: this is not correct either.  Level of education in workingwomen has significantly increased. Now there is one full-time workingwoman with college degree out of three full-time workingwomen in 2002, as compare to one out of five working women had the college degree in 1979 but the closing of wage gap slowed in 90s
  •  Women have the wrong choice about the jobs:  people argued that women choose such jobs, which pay less. But as we have discussed earlier in this report, women were compelled to do so. There exist prejudices, as some jobs are completely women’s work while some are men’s. Women have no choice to choose any other jobs
  •  Pay equity hurts male workers: on the other hand, figures revealed that the family earnings have raised $4000 per year on average
Thus it can be said that Equal pay Act is the most suitable and ethical way to bridge the gulf between male and female worker’s earnings.
Employer’s discrimination:
Employers sometimes may have difficulty accepting new female roles. Male employers, as well as male peers, may perceive women as a new form of competition for the positions on the increasingly narrow job pyramid. Or at the other extreme, overzealous bosses may promote women to responsible positions before providing them with adequate training and background, a procedure likely to scuttle a woman’s chances of success in management.
Some male bosses do not consider it necessary to provide extensive training to female managers before promoting them, they usually think that women are temporary filling this position. 
Some people feel that a woman who desires to have equal opportunities is offering a conflict in roles. Perhaps there is a role conflict; values, however, have been changing rapidly. People have to accept that women are as capable of doing any job as men.
Many employers give manager-moms only two options: full-time work or no work at all. Family women, especially mothers, want to be able to spend more time at home with their young children. That is why they prefer part-time or home based jobs. This gave rise to part-time and home-based jobs all over the world. Lawyer Paul Sprenger argued that special track for women, is illegal. He said that employer’s attitude such as “ we didn’t promote her because we felt she really cared about her kids” is the same as any other discrimination. He adds, “ the companies may not even realize what they are doing is sex discrimination”
Pay Gap by occupation:
Some people seriously think that there is no significant pay gap between men and women of equal education and experience and working in same occupation. Although different statistics have shown that women system analyst get 17 percent less than male system analysts and women in management get paid less than 42 percent than their male counterpart. We present here the difference of weekly wages of men and women from 2 occupations
  • Accountants, Auditors: Women are paid $ 734 weekly as compared to $ 980 weekly by men; their weekly pay difference is $ 246 and their earning gap is 74.9 percent
  • Data entry operators: Women are paid $ 477 weekly as compared to $ 502 weekly by men; their weekly pay difference is $ 25 and their earning gap is 95 percent (AFL-CIO, Highlights of Women’s earnings, 2002)
Pros of Equal pay:
There are several pros and cons of implanting the Act of equal pay regardless of their sex, religion and ethnic background. There are several advantages of using equal pay for both male and female workers. Male workers too affected by pay discrimination. According to the statistics, family earnings have raised $4000 per year on average if both male and female workers earn at the same rate. Equal pay for male and female workers enhances the financial status of the family and lowers their poverty level. Men who work in women dominated company or doing jobs, which are traditionally considered as women-work, are paid less. Equal pay act also helps them to get better pay. Thus both male and female workers benefited if the discrimination of sex eliminated.
Women managers:
Although effective management favors no gender but to be an effective manager a woman has to work like a man. Woman managers confront some situations and problem that are unique to their sex. These problems concern her subordinates, her peers and her own bosses.
Males usually resent being held accountable to a woman. In some cases, consciously or unconsciously, male subordinates try to bypass the authority of female boss. On the other hand, many female employees firmly believe that they prefer male managers over females. This attitude should not surprise anyone since male managers have been the only type that existed. As a result, woman who blindly accepts the job of manager- like their male counterpart- resent the presence of a female supervisor. Some female subordinates feel that it lowers their own status to have to take orders from another female.
Females and males have certain responsibilities towards each other in any organization. If goals are to be accomplished with minimum difficulty. Some male managers feel that the woman manager expects special treatment. The male manager should be as supportive or critical of a woman as of man. Regardless of sex, an important managerial characteristic is courtesy, so they both have to accept the change.
Prejudice is basically an internal phenomenon that entails the act of prejudging, or the making of judgments based on insufficient evidence. According to most studies, prejudice toward other human beings is not an inborn but a learned response.  In short, we learn from others to use the mental shortcut of prejudice.  Because ethical standards are not codified, some problems always occur. An ethical dilemma arises in situations when each alternative choice or behavior is undesirable because of potentially negative ethical consequences. Right or wrong cannot be clearly identified. As mainstream Americans have learned more about the similarities, as well as the differences, between male and female workers many of their fears and uncertainties have become allayed.  Women must continue to prepare themselves for the opportunities that are continually opening up for them.
Although prejudice and discrimination have not been fully eradicated from the workplace, much progress has been made in recent decades. Not only have women generally been satisfactory workers, but through increased exposure to women, other employees have also found that much of their prejudice had been based upon ignorance and a lack of understanding.
Some observers feel that a more conservative national mood and specific Supreme Court rulings during the 1980s have caused some betterment in the area of equal employment opportunities. Historically, any society with large numbers of people who feel alienated or oppressed has typically experienced violence, turbulence and unrest.  
We have to consider that if we continue to differentiate people due to their color, gender or nationality, then we have not achieved anything. We should now learn that, it is better to head into the future, not with hatred towards others, but with love and dignity.  

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