Written by Lisa Maatz, AAUW Vice President of Government Relations
You’ve probably heard that men are typically paid more than women are paid over their lifetimes. But what does that mean? Are women paid less because they tend to be concentrated in lower-paying, female-dominated jobs? Is it because more women work part time than men do? Is it because women tend to be the primary caregivers for their children? Or are women being paid less simply because they are women?
The answer is all of the above. But don’t worry; our handy guide breaks it all down for you. A new report from AAUW, The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap, 2014 edition, explains the gender pay gap in the United States; how it affects women of all ages, races and education levels; and what you can do to close it. Here are seven things you need to know about the wage gap.
1. The pay gap hasn‘t budged in a decade.
In 2012 — just as in 2002 — among full-time, year-round workers, women were typically paid 77 percent of what men were paid.
2. Women in every state experience the pay gap, but some states are worse than others.
The best place in the United States for pay equity is Washington, D.C., where women were typically paid 90 percent of what men were paid in 2012. At the other end of the spectrum is Wyoming, where women were typically paid just 64 percent of what men were paid.
3. The pay gap is worse for women of color.
The gender pay gap affects all women, but for African American and Hispanic women the pay shortfall is worse. Asian American women’s salaries show the smallest gender pay gap, at 87 percent of white men’s earnings. Hispanic women’s salaries show the largest gap, at 53 percent of white men’s earnings. White men are used as a benchmark because they make up the largest demographic group in the labor force.
4. Women face a pay gap in nearly every occupation.
From elementary and middle school teachers to computer programmers, women are paid less than men are in female-dominated, gender-balanced and male-dominated occupations.
5. The pay gap grows with age.
Women are typically paid about 90 percent of what men are paid until they hit age 35. After that, women are typically paid 75 to 80 percent of what men are paid.
6. While more education is an effective tool for increasing earnings overall, it does not solve the
gender pay gap.
At every level of academic achievement, women’s median earnings are less than men’s median earnings, and in some cases, the gender pay gap is larger at higher levels of education. While education helps everyone, African American and Hispanic women earn less than their white and Asian American peers do, even when they have the same educational credentials.
7. The pay gap also exists among women without children.
AAUW’s Graduating to a Pay Gap report found that among full-time workers one year after college graduation — nearly all of whom were childless — women were typically paid just 82 percent of what their male counterparts were paid. Even in an apples-to-apples comparison of graduates with the same major, occupation, and other factors, the gap persists.
Even worse than the reality of the wage gap is the sad fact that few women actually know if they are being paid fairly. Some don’t feel safe asking these questions at work for fear of retaliation from their bosses. They could even be fired! No fooling.
For a problem as big as unequal pay, we need the president, Congress, and elected state officials to step up and act. The Senate finally held a hearing on equal pay legislation on April 1, but we can’t wait for Congress to act. President Obama can and should act now.
Your voice is needed to make that happen — sign our petition urging President Obama to take action on equal pay.
AAUW empowers women as individuals and as a community. For more than 130 years, our members and supporters have worked together as a national grassroots organization to improve the lives of women and their families.
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