In the wake of last week’s hearings of Dr. Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh, talk of gender discrimination and different forms of female oppression are in the air. The gender wage gap is one of the most tangible places where we’re able to measure the systematic oppression of women that exists in America today.
There are plenty of statistics to help those who are unaware understand the life of women in the workplace. Let’s start with this one: women earn 80.5 cents to every dollar a man makes, and that is with the same level of education (nationalpartnership.org). If you break that gap down by race, ethnicity or the pursuit of motherhood, it gets worse.
Women of color report earning less than their White male colleagues. Black women are typically paid 61 cents, Native American women are paid 58 cents and Latina women are paid 53 cents to every White man’s dollar. Although Asian women report the lowest pay gap at 85 cents, some ethnic subgroups of Asian women earn much less.
In the summer of 2017, the Pew Research Center conducted a survey among working female and male adults on workplace discrimination. To many women, it would not come as a shock to discover that 25 percent of women reported getting paid less than men for doing the same exact job, while only 5 percent of men reported this same form of discrimination (pewresearch.org).
Some arguments have been made that much of this discrimination occurs due to the added hours and overtime that men contribute to the workforce, but to this, we suggest a significant piece of information has been profoundly overlooked. Many women participate in the “second shift,” a thankless, wage-less job that involves sustaining a healthy family. The responsibility of maintaining a household is primarily put on women and mothers, who, even alongside a career, are still expected to fulfill these duties. Statistics show women do three times the amount of housework than men do, giving working women and mothers less freedom and opportunity to work long hours or overtime. This consequently inhibits their chances of advancement in their careers and reinforces the concept that women must either be wives and mothers or career-oriented, but dare not be both.
Furthermore, women and girls do not have the same access and encouragement to pursue majors that yield higher-paying careers. We see this in fields such as STEM and computing. From a young age, girls lack the role models and encouragement needed to pursue careers in these areas. If we pretend this issue starts freshman year of college, we are ignoring a massive systematic and cultural disparity. The pay gap doesn’t begin at a woman’s first job, it begins when she is young. Her male counterpart is told to be successful, and she is told to be pretty.
So what does all of this mean, and why does it matter? After all, a large portion of the American population systematically benefits from the gender wage gap. It comes down to this: the work that women do matters and should be valued equally.
To all the women who have experienced any form of discrimination, know that you are not alone and you have people, with arms wide open, ready to chase justice with you. You have a voice that deserves to be heard.
With that, we will leave you with some inspiring words from activist, author and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, “We need women at all levels, including the top, to change the dynamic, reshape the conversation, to make sure women’s voices are heard and heeded, not overlooked and ignored.”
Written by PLNU students Elina Mendoza, Bailey Taylor, Kirra Ziehl and Tigist Layne.