Gender pay gap shortchanges women by $500 billion a year, and here’s what you can do about it

US News

A woman makes about 80 cents for every dollar a man does, on average, but that shortfall can vary widely depending on what you do.

“As much as we’ve kept the light on this issue, it’s been essentially stagnant for two decades,” said Kim Churches, CEO of the American Association of University Women, a Washington-based nonprofit dedicated to advancing equity for women.

Although women experience a persistent pay gap in nearly every occupation, the professions with the most significant income discrepancies are largely in the finance and medical industries, according to a new report by the AAUW.

The median income for male financial managers is $100,575, while female financial managers make $65,237, meaning women bring home 65 percent of what their male counterparts in this role do — and lose out on roughly $19.6 billion a year.

Physicians and surgeons have the second-largest wage discrepancy. Altogether, the gender pay gap results in a loss of $500 billion a year for working women, the AAUW found, based on 2017 Census data.

The shift in favor of women’s earning power has been pronounced in the so-called STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, according to a separate analysis by Federal Reserve economists.

Still, even in computer programming jobs, women are paid 92 percent of what their male counterparts earn, the AAUW said.

The smallest gaps were in lower wage professions, such as food preparation and serving workers, where women earn 99 cents on the dollar, followed by writers and authors and pharmacists, where women earn 98 percent of what their male counterparts make.

The only occupation where women were paid more than men was among wholesale and retail buyers, the AAUW said.

“This isn’t really a women’s rights issue; this is about economic rights for families,” Churches said.

The gender pay gap exists in every part of the country with varying degrees of intensity. The largest gap in earnings is in Louisiana, where women are paid 69 cents on the dollar, and the gap is the smallest in California, where women earn 89 cents on the dollar.

The pay gap also varies by race and ethnicity, with massive pay gaps persisting for minorities, particularly African-American women, Native American and Latinas.

Much of the gap has been explained by criteria such as education and work experience — women are more likely to work part time and take time off over the course of their careers, often to care for children or other family members, according to the Pew Research Center.

But there are other factors that are more difficult to measure, such as gender discrimination, which may contribute to the ongoing wage discrepancy, Pew said.

While it’s not a cure-all, Churches strongly advises women to negotiate their pay and push for better benefits.

“If you are not negotiating, then you are being held back,” she said.

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