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The Truth About The Gender Pay Gap

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 In honor of International Women’s Day let’s discuss the gender pay gap. 40% of US homes have a female as a primary or sole earner, it’s not just women affected.

Yes, I know that International Women’s Day was actually March 8. So I’m a week late and twenty-two cents short.  Maybe if women were equally compensated I would have had it done on time.  But since we have to work longer to make up the difference, I’m a week late.

Disclaimer:  I wrote the above paragraph for effect.  I am in no way unfairly compensated at LMM and in no way paid less because I have ovaries.  But just because I got lucky with a fair and generous boss doesn’t mean that is the case for all women and I want to highlight that.  So please, no hate mail for Andrew!

I would also like to say that I do not consider myself a feminist.  That word seems to have taken on some nasty connotations.  I like it when men are chivalrous towards me, holding open doors, pulling out chairs, paying for first dates. I would also like you to please continue to consider squishing spiders your job.

But I like money.  Really, really like money.  And I like making money, I like my job and feel like I earned my money.  I don’t have a rich husband or a trust fund to catch me if I fall.

As such, I am glad that in my job, there is no pay gap.  I would like other women who work as hard as I do to have the same.

By The Numbers

Most of us have probably heard the seventy-some cents on the dollar statistic bandied about in the media.  Is it accurate?  Well, it is.  In 2013 women who worked full time, year round made .78 for every dollar their male counterparts made.

All states have a pay gap.  The lowest is in Washington, DC at 91%, the largest is in Louisiana at 66%.

In 1967 women earned 58% of what men did.  So 78% looks like progress.  But the progress is crawling and has been for some time.  If the gap narrows at the current pace, it will take 45 years to close.  By which time, (hopefully) everyone reading this will be long retired.

Education Doesn’t Factor

You might think that your STEM degree insulates you as a woman from the gap.  Nope, you better mind the gap too.  Although your gap is smaller.

Women with the same level of education, the same degree, the same job, and who made the same decisions regarding the family as men, make 5% less the first year out of college and 12% less ten years later.

So even though you said no thanks to the MRS degree followed up by a “pink collar” job, you still earn less.

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Age Doesn’t Factor

It doesn’t improve as women age either.  After the age of 35, the pay gap for women increases.  So you figure that you put your time in, work hard, prove yourself and things will change.  No, sorry.  No matter how dedicated you may be, your chromosomes will still trump that when it comes to getting your paycheck.

Mark The Date

Here is a gross and depressing date to mark on your calendar if you’re a chick.  April 14, 2015.  That is how far into the current year a woman must work to earn what a man in the same job will have earned in 2013.

That date is around the same date that most Americans have to work in order to pay taxes.  Every cent earned to that date goes to paying taxes.  Okay, I don’t like paying taxes any more than anyone else but at least it applies to everyone (who doesn’t have a slick accountant).

What I object to is having to work all that time just because I had the audacity to be born with two XX chromosomes.

One Chance To Get Out

This one makes me happy.  If you are a childfree woman, you can escape this bullshit.  I have never wanted children and made certain it would never happen nearly a decade ago when I had a tubal ligation.

Childfree urban women age 22-30 earn 8% more than their male counterparts.  And they deserve it.  I have worked in big companies whereas the single, childfree woman I was expected, no obligated, to pick up the crappy slack of my co-workers who had kids.

If you have children, you are automatically granted certain privileges in the workplace.  Did you come in late?  Oh, Suzy couldn’t find her Hello Kitty backpack and her homework was in it.  Do you need to leave early because Johnny has a soccer game?  No problem, Candice will finish your report.  On and on ad nauseam.

I didn’t make any more money for all the picked up slack and they didn’t make any less for all that they dropped.  Winds me right up still.

Sometimes It Is Fair

Undoubtedly part of the reason for this pay gap is gold old-fashioned sexism.  Some dinosaurs still think women are not as smart as men, as hardworking as men, or even worth as much as men in more ways than are measured by the size of their paychecks.

But that doesn’t explain the whole thing.  Women who choose to derail their career trajectory for the Mommy Track don’t deserve to make the same as men or women who don’t.

If you take time off to have a kid or kids, you don’t deserve the same pay, raises, and promotions that those around you earn.  Sorry if you don’t like to hear that, but you don’t.

What I would like is not to be automatically put into the same group as the Mommy Trackers just because I’m also a woman.  I want to start out on equal footing with my male counterparts until I prove that I should be treated otherwise through my choices and not my biology.

It’s Not Just The Ladies

Just because you’re a man doesn’t mean this doesn’t impact you.  Even the most neck beard among us probably has at least one woman in his life.  As I wrote in the opener, 40% of US households have a woman who is the primary or sole earner.

If you’re married or living with your partner, your joint income could be 22% higher.  Because of this wage gap and because women tend to live longer than men, your mother might need help in her golden years.  If you have a daughter, your little girl will be at an unfair disadvantage from her first paycheck.

So it’s in everyone’s best interest to push for a closing of the wage gap.  After everything, the women in your life have done for you, help a girl out.


AAUW:  How you can help close the gap.

Candice Elliott - Senior Editor
Candice Elliott is a substantial contributor to Listen Money Matters. She has been a personal finance writer since 2013 and has written extensively on student loan debt, investing, and credit. She has successfully navigated these areas in her own life and knows how to help others do the same. Candice has answered thousands of questions from the LMM community and spent countless hours doing research for hundreds of personal finance articles. She happily calls New Orleans, Louisiana home-the most fun city in the world.
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