The gender wage gap refers to the difference in the average hourly earnings of men and women. Though there has been progressing toward gender equality in the workplace, the gap between men’s and women’s earnings persist as evidenced by statistics from various independent bodies like the U.S. Census Bureau. According to the Bureau, women today earn an average of 80 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. As more and more women become more educated, one may expect the gap to close but on the contrary, research indicates that even accounting for factors such as occupation, race, and marital status, the gap is at its largest at high levels of education.
There are various reasons for the wage gap and which may sometimes be complex and interrelated. Firstly, work experience between women and men may differ considering that women are more likely to have fewer working hours and hence less experience due to childbearing and taking care of dependants, this leads to a reduction in their wage rates. From history, certain occupations are dominated by large a population of women. Part-time jobs are common in such occupations and the fact that women are faced with the responsibility of taking care of their children besides work means women are made to work for fewer hours to have a balance between work and family. On the other hand, men can cope with full-time schedules meaning they earn more than women.
There is a general belief that the wage gap could be closed if more and more women move into male-dominated occupations. The opposite is true as women’s occupations are generally less rated and such movement would only make the new occupations where they move to be less valued. There is much debate about the role of discrimination in influencing the wage gap as some people believe that it plays a role in making the gap bigger.
Closing the wage gap is a priority of various governments. For example in the United Kingdom, the government is keen on implementing policies relating to narrowing the wage gap. Some of the measures include coming up with a way to help employers pay attention to issues that influence the gender pay gap. There are also campaigns for trade unions to improve the availability of high-income and quality part-time job opportunities. Besides this move enabling women’s talents to be used and rewarded, it is likely to enable women to make genuine career choices which will enable them to balance career and family responsibilities. In addition, such a move will improve the way division of labor in homes, where the gap plays an important role, is carried out and this will result in the ability of both parents to play an active role in the raising of their children.
Making the wage gap disappear will require society to change some traditional perceptions that include viewing housekeeping work as the work of women. Employers will have to recognize the importance of the duties of women away from the workplace and be able to accommodate them while considering such factors. It will also be important to recognize occupation considered to be for women as equally important as an occupation for men.
Alison D. Spalding (1998) Taking Side: Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in Gender Studies, Dushkin /Mc Graw-Hill Publisher, United States.
Confronting Gender Wage Gap, Web.
Robert L. Nelson, William P. (1999) Legalizing Gender Inequality: Courts, Markets, and Unequal Pay for Women. Cambridge University Press, United Kingdom.