The wage gap and other disparities between men and women in the American workforce exist. It is in no way a simple problem and there is no one reason these exist. But discrediting the wage gap and giving organizations a pass for any number of excuses is not helping anyone.
While the gender pay gap is slimming, it still exists, according to a study from Pew Research Center in 2017. In 2015, women made 17 cents less for each dollar a man made. The good news is the wage gap is smaller for the newest generation entering the workforce.
Pew Research found “women were more likely to say they had taken breaks from their careers to care for their family. These types of interruptions can have an impact on long-term earnings.” Some argue the pay gap is fair because of this, but this is one of the primary reasons that pay gap is unfair. As a society, we can’t expect women to take caregiving roles in their families, which by the way is free labor in most cases, and then decide not to pay them as well at work.
We have to change the way we view women in caregiving roles, but we also need to make workplaces a better atmosphere for employees to take care of their families without worrying their career may be in jeopardy.
Our own institution is not immune from these workplace gender disparities. In 2017, the top highest paid positions at Iowa State were all men. In almost every level at the university, there is a gender disparity, whether that be low representation of women or differences in wages. Some argue looking at Iowa State’s 2017 salary data alone doesn’t take into account what goes into a salary and therefore cannot point to gender inequality, but come on?
If it’s not simply men being paid more than women with the same or better qualifications, then it’s another gender disparity. Sure there are certain fields and positions that pay more, but if women aren’t holding those positions and aren’t in those fields, doesn’t that say something, too? And if nothing else, the salary disparity shows women are not being granted the same opportunities for success at work.
Perhaps change is on the horizon with President Wendy Wintersteen serving as the first woman in that role.
In a previous editorial, we wrote that the cultural shift of women in leadership is needed to make better decisions that help benefit both women and men. But it isn’t just needed at the workplace. We need to teach young people that professional success should be based on merit and work ethic. We need to show there are not certain jobs meant for men or women and there is no reason a man should be paid more than an equally qualified woman.
Some take these discussions about the wage gap or other gender disparities as an attack on men, but it’s on the contrary. Most men don’t outright believe that women should make less than men, but this doesn’t mean that implicit biases and other barriers don’t exist.
Together, we can solve this problem. But we can’t do that if we continue discrediting it.