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Gender Pay Inequality

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    Since women have been in the workforce, gender pay inequality has long been debated and overall pay inequality and the evident divisions in socioeconomic statuses have affected the way people see themselves and other people In “The Psychology of Inequality” by Elizabeth Kolbert, a study was performed to show that people respond emotionally towards inequity, using a ‘relative income model’ (Kolbert). While this study showed the emotional responses to different pay comparison amongst workers and their peers, who do these feelings truly affect and in what ways? As Kolbert describes, ‘people who see themselves as poor make different decisions, and generally worse ones.’ One of the largest gaps of inequity has to do with gender and in general women make less money than their male peers no matter what wage and education level they are at. This has created gender income gaps, gender wealth gaps, and gender poverty gaps. The following research will explore a ‘chicken or egg’ argument, a who came first or what was the cause or was this the effect, on the vicious cycle of gender pay inequality and how it has affected women’s lower pay and lesser paying career choices.

    Women have been paid less since the beginning of time compared to their male piers, and currently women make eighty two cents per dollar a man makes (Roepe). It’s not very clear whether or not this wage gap is due to job choice and education level firstly or the presence of an unchanging sexism and discrimination in the workplace since women are now just as educated as men, if not, more (Cribb). Women often take home 39% less than men do due to taking time off to care for children, and fewer earnings results in fewer dollars to invest in things such as a 401K plan (Roepe). There is also the stereotype of men needing to be the ‘head of the household and primary breadwinner’ (Roepe). Much of the debate is whether or not employment contracts were made with mostly men in mind in terms of higher status positions, with a typical work day not scheduled around when school lets out, causing many women to only work partial days or cutting hours to be able to pick up their children, many without the luxury of having another caretaker or being able to be a stay at home parent (Cribb). Much of the debate is whether or not employment contracts were made with mostly men in mind in terms of higher status positions (Cribb). No matter what field of work, there is always a pay gap between female and male workers of the same field, and this is about the same in terms of level of education (Roepe). These gaps are measured by health and survival, how much education, participation in the economy, and political empowerment (Roepe). However, while many studies are focused on workers of that are high levels such as managers and administrators, there has been a study showing that there is less of a pay gap between genders in young adults and that this is continuing to shrink (Roepe).

    Still, the presence of salary inequity between genders is present, and since so much of the global wealth and concentration of income has grown, political power over these issues remains with the wealthy ( Issues such as gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and the fact that 63% of minimum wage workers are female are often ignored ( Gender income gaps have shown that only five percent of all CEOs of Fortune500 companies are female, and men have a greater chance of being top earners in the workforce, even though women now make up half of the work force in the United States ( In terms of gender wealth gaps, which is calculated by finding the sum of debts subtracted from assets, women have less than the median retirement amount saved, whereas men have three times more, and across all levels of pay, this is often due to women having more responsibilities for their children and home life ( Another newer factor affecting this gap is that there is student debt, in which females make up 56% of college students and yet their debts are two thirds of all student loan debts ( This has led to the gender poverty gap actually widening over the last 50 years, jumping from 10.8% of women in poverty in 1968 to 13.4% of women in poverty in 2016, which holds greater chance in women of color ( This percentage is doubled for transgendered folk (

    The Government Accountability Office had done a recent study to truly look at how gender pay inequality has affected those of the lowest socioeconomic status, the people making the lowest wages or have the lowest education levels, something that has often been overlooked as studies are often perfomed at the managerial level. This research was unable to measure whether or not career choice or discrimination truly determined pay and it was not able to factor in years or levels of work experience (Government Accountability Office). However, using a group of workers aged 25 to 64 in this wage category, the study showed that one fifth of low waged females were unmarried with at least one child, which is more than three times the amount of men that are unmarried with one child living with them (Government Accountability Office). Women in this category had roughly a $27,000 total annual household income, with $15,000 coming from personal wages and the other $12,000 coming from other household income or government aid, leaving many women below the poverty level if they did not have the other 43% of income coming from elsewhere, with their children sitting at that level right there with them (Government Accountability Office). While better education has been shown to lead to higher wages, it is evident that lesser education leads to lesser wages, but even lesser if the person is female.

    Returning to the article by Kolbert, people that viewed themselves as poor were shown in a study to have been more likely to make poor or riskier decisions. This study also showed that people feeling disadvantaged had increasingly different perceptions of racial differences (Kolbert). However, is it possible that people that viewed themselves in negatively unequal pay grade would consciously make decisions to work in career paths that were of a lower pay grade? And if so, is it due to their lowering value of self worth?

    In a study presented in Kolbert’s article, a database called Bee’s was formulated with information containing the amounts everyone in certain state employed companies had made, and certain employees were made aware of this database while others were not, allowing certain employees to peek at what their peers were making in comparison to their own income. However, both sets were emailed a job satisfaction survey, and those that had been able to view their peers’ incomes in comparison to theirs were exposed to the ‘relative income model’ in responses, which predicted that those that saw that they made less than their coworkers would be upset and those that made more would be happy (Kolbert). However, while the model was correct in predicting the result of those that discovered that they did not make as much as their peers, those that made more were did not care and were not happier, and this study was later translated to a similar test on both toddlers and capuchin monkeys, in which those with the lesser rewards viewed the inequity, but those that got the better rewards were indifferent or possibly shared their rewards with others (Kolbert). So even in those with a lesser cognitive mindset were able to respond to inequality emotionally but more so if they had received the short end of the stick, as in anyone else of any other level of workforce pay grade.

    There are many laws and proposed laws that have strived to change this very apparent inequity amongst people in the workforce. The 1963 Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 have been in existence for many years and have attempted to abolish unequal pay due to all sorts of discrimination (Roepe). Recently in 2009, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act had reversed a Superior Court decision that would have slowed down the ability for workers to sue their employers if discrimination had affected their pay (Roepe). Although the Equal Pay Act was signed in 1963, as of today, the gap has only narrowed by less than half a cent per year of its existence, showing that the gap really has not narrowed much at all (Roepe). Another study described in Roepe’s article concluded that women end up being shorted up to $1.6 million dollars in their lifetime over these differences.

    So what came first, women’s choices in lower paying career paths or the inequality in pay? According to Kolbert’s article, it is possible that people that looked down on themselves would make poorer decisions, and so in this case it is possible that being used to pay inequality would perhaps result in women having a ‘give-up’ attitude and settling for lesser paying jobs? However, Kolbert also discussed that those people who looked down on themselves would also possibly make riskier decisions — so would this make any sense as to why more women were taking a jump at obtaining a college degree regardless of the increase in student loan debt that they would have a more difficult time repaying then men would? Or would it allow them to aim for higher paying jobs in hopes of a chance at pay equality or something close? Is going to school and aiming for more pay in a higher position a good risky decision, a poor decision, a poor risky decision, or not a completely thought out decision? As quoted by Kolbert, in a world of pay inequality, in regards to the emotionally negative reactions of the lower paid population and the indifference from those that make more or are comfortable, ‘there are no real winners and a multitude of losers.’ Those with wealth are not phased, but those that do not have much take chances because, well, if they do not have much, what do they really have to lose? Do the wealthy take chances at all even? If so, what do they also have to lose if anything?

    As the future grows near, it is with hope that the gender pay gap closes. However, a recent study predicted that it would not fully be resolved for another two hundred and eight years. Even then, perhaps new laws and preventative action in the work place can speed this up and build a better foundation for equality, with men realizing the burdens of women taken in their home life, allowing for more flexibility, even work from home abilities and other creative methods of preventing the wage gap and furthermore preventing negative outlooks from person to person upon themselves. Increase in self worth is heavily and emotionally affected by society’s presentation of worth, and as Kolbert stated, it is not greater wealth but instead a sense of equity that will help all to feel richer.

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    Gender Pay Inequality. (2022, Jan 05). Retrieved from

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