Piggy Bank | Photo by Hannah Carson | The Wright State Guardian
Equal Pay Day in March produced dialogue about the history of the gender pay gap and why it is important to understand its roots.
Why is there a gender pay gap?
March 15 was Equal Pay Day in the United States; however, not a lot has been done to close the gender pay gap in the last three decades, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, if society continues at the rate it is now, it will take 44 years for any woman to be paid the same as a man, and that only includes white women. For Asian women, it will take 68 years, for Black women over 100 years and for Hispanic or Latina women, it will take over 200 years.
The Economic Policy Institute gathered data on this issue, explaining that, while the pay gap narrowed between 1979 and 1994, this was mainly due to stagnation of men’s wages rather than increase in women’s wages. The institute explained that the pay gap in 2021 remained at 22.1%.
The American Association of University Women is an organization that promotes intersectionality and inclusivity with a focus on equity and security. The organization explained the multiple reasons for the pay gap.
“The gender pay gap is the result of many factors, including race and ethnicity, disability, access to education and age. As a result, different groups of women experience very different gaps in pay. The gender pay gap is a complex issue that will require robust and inclusive solutions,” the association explained.
Dr. Barbara Hopkins, professor of economics at Wright State University, explained the importance of knowing the causes of the gender pay gap in order to understand it. Hopkins explained that there are numerous factors that go into this, including different political movements.
“So part of the political argument here is linked to the people who say women’s pay is lower because of choices that women make. For example, women choose to have children, and if they didn’t have children, then you’re almost at the same pay rates,” Hopkins said. “Now, from a feminist perspective, the problem is that the society doesn’t value children and the work that women do raising them. So, that’s kind of the political debate.”
According to Hopkins, that is just one of many discourses around the structure of pay and gender equity. Other arguments include society’s work culture, amount of part-time pay, length of a full-time day job, occupational segregation and more.
Hopkins noted that gender discrimination in jobs is still happening and requires acknowledgement. This issue has also affected Hopkins personally.
“I’m an economist, so I chose a male-dominated profession. That said, I’m probably the lowest paid full professor in the College of Business,” Hopkins said.
Those who have faced gender discrimination in the workplace or want to know about the pay gap can visit the Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission website.