Top Four Reasons the Gender Pay Gap Persists

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by Madison A. Baker

Though it has been shrinking, the gender wage gap persists and continues to affect women everywhere. The gender gap is also detrimental to the economy. Rutgers University identifies wage inequality as one of five socioeconomic issues contributing to the widening income disparity that hurts the American economy.

Women make up about half of the workforce and are more likely to have a degree than men, but their labor is regularly valued less than that of their male counterparts. And the gap gets even larger for women of color, who often make a mere fraction of the salary that white males do. Why?

The solution to this problem — which is to pay everyone the same wages for doing the same job — may be simple, but the causes of it are not. There are a multitude of factors that influence the lingering gender pay gap, some of which are easier to address than others. Here are the top four reasons that the wage gap still exists:

1. The Glass Ceiling

As women continue to enter male-dominated positions and fields, some may claim that the glass ceiling no longer exists. However, that is not the case; the glass ceiling still hangs heavily overhead, all but impossible to break. Women consistently have more trouble moving into higher positions, even if they are more qualified than a male candidate.  

Even when women do move up, they are typically paid less than a man in the same role. In addition, that gap in pay tends to get wider at executive and C-Suite positions than in lower or entry level jobs. The glass ceiling widens the gender wage gap in multiple ways, making it one of the biggest reasons the gap still exists at all.

2. Venture Capital Funding

Though more and more women have been opening their own businesses, their entrepreneurial ventures are not funded as often as those of their male counterparts. According to a 2017 report from Crunchbase on female entrepreneurs, only 17 percent of female-founded startups received venture funding — a number that has not grown since 2012. When they do receive funding, women raised $82 for every $100 a male-led team raised.

Women entrepreneurs need to be aware of this issue when seeking funding for their businesses. The pace for overall improvement is glacial at best, so women must stand up for themselves and their startups. Obtaining funding is an extra challenge women must face and being knowledgeable about the discrepancies can help female entrepreneurs avoid them.

3. The Mother Factor

If a woman becomes pregnant and has a baby, she must go on maternity leave (often unpaid) or leave her job until she can return to work. Going back to work after having a baby can be difficult, as women often have to figure out a new balance between parenthood and their jobs. That may involve needing to take time off of work for doctor’s appointments or only working part-time while adjusting.

Further, employers may hold a pregnancy bias against women because they fear that female employees will prioritize starting a family over their careers. Employers may not choose a female candidate for a promotion for the same reason. They may even withhold increased responsibilities out of concern that women do not take their jobs as seriously because of their children.

4. Sexism

Of course, the biggest reason for the gender wage gap is sexism. The reasons discussed above all stem from sexism. Though society has improved greatly, allowing more and more opportunities to women over time, there’s still a long way to go before sexism is no longer an issue in the workplace.

A study published in the Harvard Business Review found that, despite men and women behaving similarly in the workplace, women are treated differently due to gender bias. Mentors, leadership training, and other programs designed to lift women up will only go so far. Businesses must also work to eliminate sexist attitudes and implement policies that promote diversity in the workplace.

The Global Gender Gap Index Report found that at its current rate, the economic gender gap will not be closed for another 217 years. They also note that this rate is the same as it was in 2008, indicating that the gender wage gap may not actually be improving. As it fails to close, the gender wage gap becomes an increasingly urgent issue that needs to be fixed. Though that may be easier said than done, closing the gender pay gap is a necessity for the future of women around the world.

Money, PoliticsErin Bagwell