There is an insidious economic issue that burdens women around the world – even in the United States. It saps the ability to repay student debts. It makes life more difficult for mothers (now 42% of the U.S. population who are sole or primary wage earners) to feed, house, and clothe their families. It leaves old women destitute and, in extreme cases, homeless.
These are all real effects of the gender pay gap. Here are a few statistics from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) landmark study – The Simple Truth (https://www.aauw.org/research/the-simple-truth-about-the-gender-pay-gap/). (Data from 2016)
- Women working full time in the United States typically are paid just 80 percent of what men were paid.
- While the gap is narrowing, if progress continues at the same pace as it has since 2001, the gap will not be closed until 2119.
- The gender wage gap contributes to more women living below the poverty line.
- Women in retirement receive less from social security and other sources.
Since we all have mothers and many of us have aunts, daughters and sisters, this is a family issue, not just a women’s issue. This issue, as well, worsens with racial, age, and sexual orientation demographics. For example, the average Latina woman makes just 54% of an average white male.
Of course, there are many factors affecting the gender wage gap over time, including choice of career, geography, level of education, time out of the labor force, etc. But one of the most telling statistics from a 2012 study was that women just one year after college graduation were being paid 18% less than their male counterparts.
This statistic brings me to a personal story of taking action to mitigate this injustice.
This past year, I have led an initiative in Tucson, Arizona, to education young women about the wage gap and train them to negotiate their first salary. The University of Arizona – the College of Education and the Eller School of Management – have partnered with the local chapter of the AAUW to hold Start Smart workshops for students. One of the professors has even integrated the material into her class for seniors.
Part of the workshop that I love is illustrating the wage gap after five years for college-educated students. I have a great big purple pig which represents the almost $10,00 more a male earns those first years after graduation. I have a small pink pig that illustrates the bank account of the female.
Are we having an impact? I have only a small data sample so far, but more anecdotal evidence. The students are saying “YES”, I feel I personally got more salary and benefits based on what I learned.
I would be happy to talk to anyone about spreading these workshops around the U.S. and even the world. Let’s train women to close the gender pay gap!