According to new data from the Pew Research Center, a woman in 2022 typically earns 82 cents for every dollar earned by a man. A pitiful 2% increase since 2002. This gap is regardless of skill or educational level and is measurably larger for women of color. While the national statistics are certainly depressing, Illinois is no better.
As women’s history month begins I can’t help but wonder: how do we actually define the gender pay gap and how do we explain it?
How is the gender pay gap calculated?
The most common way that the gender pay gap is calculated is by comparing the median income of men and women who are employed full time. This is where the 82 cents per dollar figure comes from. While some disagree about the importance of this statistic, much of the controversy and confusion about the gender pay gap comes from attempting to explain its cause and its impact on society.
What causes the gender pay gap?
There are several reasons that are commonly cited as causes for the gender pay gap. The types of work that men and women do – occupational segregation – is often in the forefront (see below). Others highlight the role of historical educational trends, work experience, or time away from employment as possible or partial explanations. These are all certainly plausible, but the crucial question is this: How much of the gap should be attributed to blatant discrimination and sexism? Some point out that these social forces all compound and can not be separated. In fact, 50% of Americans suggest that gender discrimination is a major reason for the gender pay gap.
The gender pay gap is almost certainly caused by a combination of all of these factors – including discrimination against women. I see no point in arguing about the cause or explanation – we deserve solutions not explanations. I want to live in a more equitable world and it is my hope that we can do much much better in the next 20 years.