Published on March 23rd, 2021 | by Nancy F. Clark0
The Staggering Truth About The 86-Year Pay Gap & How To Solve The Crisis
By Renee Goyeneche
The statistics are clear: the gender pay gap is real. It’s pervasive. And it isn’t going anywhere.
Current projections estimate the wage gap will close in 2106, 86 years from now. That means at the current incremental rate of improvement, four more generations of women will have to fight to gain equal wages before the numbers finally equalize. Our daughters, granddaughters and great-granddaughters will still be fighting this same battle unless the status quo changes.
Right now, the “status quo” reflects an average annual salary for women of $45,097, compared to $55,291 for men. Many of the immediate effects of the disparity are obvious; women report a higher level of financial stress, have decreased spending power to purchase goods and services, and are less likely to have the financial freedom to pursue their interests. They also have a harder time paying off their educational debt, despite the fact they are statistically better educated than men.
This “women’s issue” is also a family and national economic issue. Women are currently the sole or primary breadwinners in 41% of U.S. households, which means families are relying on women’s earnings to make ends meet. The lack of pay equity negatively impacts everything from a family’s ability to secure housing or pay for health or childcare to funding their children’s education. It also means these same families are more likely to live in poverty, especially if women are responsible for supporting children on their own. All told, women lose a combined total of more than $915 billion every year due to the wage gap—money that could be put back into their families and into building the U.S. economy.
As frustrating as that immediate data is, the extended ramifications are even more disturbing, because the pay gap translates to a long-term financial security issue. With lower amounts of available cash, it’s harder for women to save and invest over the course of their careers and financially safeguard the assets they do acquire.
They’re also far more likely than men to face financial hardship in retirement. In fact, recent data from the AAUW suggests that women earn as much as 30% less than men during these years. Women also live roughly five years longer than men on average, so the reality is that they will have to stretch far less money over significantly more time.
There’s good news in the gender wage gap as legislative, corporate and personal accountability are on the rise.
There is good news in all this, however. Legislative, corporate and personal accountability are on the rise, paving the way for substantial equalization gains.
- Women are learning why it’s critical to negotiate their employment packages, and how to do it more successfully. Research has revealed that women do ask for higher wages and promotions, but at a lower rate than men, and they’re less successful in their attempts. Discussion of the topic has led to leadership programs that help build women’s negotiation skills for more positive results.
- Wage secrecy practices are changing, allowing for greater transparency. Until recently, it’s been common practice for employers to discourage wage discussion between employees— and many companies even penalized employees for doing so. These practices have fallen out of favor in recent years, however, and the option to enforce them is being legislated away. There are now laws in 18 states that require employers to allow open salary discussion between employees.
- Thought leaders are moving toward open pay reporting policies. They’re still in the minority, but companies like Buffer, Glitch and Starbucks have guidelines in place that allow employees to see things like the pay scale for different jobs and current salaries for employees.
- Influencers are taking action. Unlike previous federal legislation, which put the weight of reporting discrepancies on the employee, new statutes may take a proactive approach to equal pay. One such proposal, the handiwork of Kamala Harris, would require companies with 100 or more employees to undergo an “equal pay certification” every two years to ensure both sexes earn the same wage for analogous work.
There’s a common factor in all these indicators: open discussion. The topic of pay equity is complicated and often misunderstood, but this much is evident: It’s critical to keep the issue at the forefront of public consciousness, because closing the pay gap requires action from individuals, employers, and policymakers.