There’s a little misconception that needs to be cleared up when it comes to the supposed “myth” of the gender wage gap. Apparently, feminists at the AAUW compiled a report that “proved” there wasn’t one. According to an article on Huffington Post a while ago, the wage gap is almost non-existent, and a myth. Well, considering the way mainstream media has been working (or not working) these days, we can no longer simply take journalists at their word.
The report the article is based on was called Graduating to a Pay Gap. The first thing that needs to be pointed out about the report is the population sample that the study was based on. Methodology in any study is important, and in this case it was vital. The report was compiled based on college graduates one year after graduation. Before we even get into the actual numbers in the report itself, we have to stop and think about how relevant the study is to most people currently in the work force. It doesn’t include anyone who doesn’t have a degree, or anyone with more than a year of working in the field. It directly addresses the issue women face when paying off student loans.
The report was created in such a way that it compensated for things like hours worked, field of employment, and college major. The idea was to make certain the comparison was brutally fair. Comparing a woman who only works thirty-five hours per week to a man who works sixty hours per week just isn’t all that fair of a comparison. It didn’t compare a nuclear physicist with a computer programmer or a teacher, and it took into consideration the fact that graduates from certain schools would already have a leg up based on the reputation of their school.
Now, if the report had really proven there was no wage gap, there would be no point in carrying on with this discussion. We’d simply be saying, “Oh, yay! Women have finally won the battle!” Sadly, that’s not even close to the case here. The wage gap that remained, even accounting for all of the factors previously mentioned, ranged from seven to eighteen percent. If you stop and think about it, that’s not exactly small potatoes. Based on the idea that a male might be making approximately $50,000 per year, a female would be making anywhere from $41,000 to $46,500, losing somewhere between $3,500 and $9,000. Student loans look a whole lot bigger under those circumstances.
Of course, those numbers are based on a very small sampling of the population, so it doesn’t say a whole lot about the gender wage gap in general. Mind you, the groups fighting against those who are striving for equal pay have no problem with trotting out the notion that the whole thing is a myth that was supposedly exposed by an article they read. Meanwhile, it wasn’t. Not by a long shot.
The only fair way to look at the gap in wages is to take as large a sampling as possible. In 2007, the AAUW released a different (earlier) report called Behind the Pay Gap, which was based not only on one year after graduation, but also ten years after graduation. The wage gap only widens the further the employees were from their graduation. Women in the study actually scored higher grade point averages during their college years, only to find themselves making a lot less money.
Ten years after graduation, women were making only sixty-nine percent of the wages men were making when they worked full-time. Part-time employment figures showed women making only fifty-six percent of the wages their male counterparts were making. In families where there were children, the gap in full-time wages increased – women were making only sixty-three percent compared to the men.
Now, those numbers are about six years old, so maybe they’re not as relevant now. Well, it would be nice to hope so, but the latest report from the AAUW, The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap, appears to show otherwise. The report is dated 2013, and references data from 2011. It still shows the twenty-three percent wage gap that many are already familiar with. When the report discusses the numbers with respect to adjusting for employment differences, the gaps that remained unexplained in the previous reports are still present, and the seven to eighteen percent gap is still the currently available figure.
What this all boils down to is the fact that the wage gap is still very much present in the U. S. economy. These are not pie-in-the-sky numbers that are meaningless because someone is comparing apples to oranges. The numbers are adjusted to take those things into consideration so that we can be as fair as possible about what is really happening with our wages. The data doesn’t come from another universe, either. It comes straight from the US government.
This is an issue that directly impacts families. If a woman makes less money in her field than a man does, she has less to bring home. This puts further strain on her partner to take up the slack financially. In the case of male-female pairings, it puts the strain on a man. In the case of female-female pairings, both partners are most likely making lower wages than their male counterparts, and there is no one to make up the difference. When there are children in the home, there is less money coming in to provide for them.
The wage gap is not a myth, and never has been. It’s a fact of life that far too many families are having to live with every single day. It is very discouraging for any young woman who might be about to embark on a college career, since it’s not exactly a secret that she’s probably not going to make as much money in the future as her male classmates. Equal pay for equal work would make a very positive difference for everyone.