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April 14, 2014 at 6:21 AM

Forum: The gender pay gap is real. Have you been affected?

The wage gap between men and women is pervasive. Whether the national average difference is 77 percent, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families, or 84 percent, according to the Pew Research Center, male employees still have an advantage.

That’s just wrong. Women deserve equal pay for doing the same work as their male peers and an equal shot at climbing up the success ladder.

The gap has closed over the years, but as Pew notes in the video below, progress is slowing down. Take a look:

Have you personally experienced pay inequities in your career? What do you think is the cause of this? Do you have ideas for solutions to close the gap? Scroll down to the form at the end of this post and tell us.

First, take a look at Saturday’s Seattle Times editorial supporting the city’s efforts to close inequities within its own ranks. The narrative is a familiar one. Many lower-wage jobs tend to be held by women, while most of the higher-paying jobs and leadership positions are held by men.

The same trends apply nationwide. The current system limits upward mobility, but there’s hope for change as employers start to analyze the root causes of pay inequity, women continue to outpace men in earning college degrees and bosses allow more flexible hours.

Alas, many of us demand changes now and lament the reasons why inequities persist in this post-“Mad Men” world.

Here’s a few reasons, culled from various news reports:

  • According to the Pew Research Center, women are more likely to take career breaks to care for their families. 

And research has shown that these types of interruptions can have an impact on long-term earnings.  Roughly four-in-ten mothers say they have taken a significant amount of time off from work (39 percent) or reduced their work hours (42 percent) to care for a child or other family member. Roughly a quarter (27 percent) say they have quit work altogether to take care of these familial responsibilities. (Fewer men say the same. For example, just 24 percent of fathers say they have taken a significant amount of time off to care for a child or other family member.)

  • Last Friday, The Washington Post reported on a new federal government study showing pay inequities have improved over the years. But experience level, motivation and work performance also make a difference. 

However, it added: “To the extent that the explaining factors are subject to employee or employer control, some unknown portion of the explained gap may reflect the effects of discrimination (either societal or employer-specific).”

  • In that same Post story, a policy analyst with the conservative Heritage Foundation suggests it’s important for women to understand — and defend — their worth. 

[Romina] Boccia said other factors besides discrimination can play a role in creating a pay disparity, including how much women are willing to aggressively negotiate for higher pay and whether they accept non-wage benefits that can help working mothers, such as longer maternity leave, assistance with child care and flexibility with work hours and locations.

We can pull a lot of teeth thinking about the pay gap, but don’t forget that money is not the sole measure of success for all women. In December, I wrote an Opinion NW blog post about Pew’s research on wages and questioned whether women are genetically predisposed to make less because they have children and are more likely to stay home to be caretakers. As noted in that Pew study, it found “that the majority of those who choose to cut their hours, reject promotions, or quit their jobs altogether to raise their children or care for loved ones were still plenty satisfied in life. No complaints or regrets.”

Regardless of the reasons why women leave (or return to) full-time jobs, they deserve to be treated and paid fairly according to their abilities and experience levels. Let’s keep the pay-gap discussion going.

Have you experienced the wage gap in your line of work? How so? Tell us in the form below. We may use your responses in a follow-up blog post. Contact information will only be used for verification purposes and will not be publicly posted.

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Comments | Topics: city of seattle, discrimination, gap


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