Why Do Women Get Paid Less Than Men?
Business, Government and Regulation
December 11, 2014
Most women and other minority groups such as Latin Americans and
African Americans still face problems in getting paid equally as their male
counterparts for doing the same exact job. The reasons why they tend to get paid
less is because they get offered less when starting the job, they take time off to
raise their children, they need flexible hours and cannot work as many hours as
their male counterparts, they are less likely to ask for a pay raise than men, they
gravitate to positions that tend to pay less and they have a harder time getting
promoted than men. The government has stepped in and created the Equal Pay
Act of 1963 which helped closed the gap, but there is still a long way to go.
One of the arguments against the pay difference between males and
females is that women are taking lower paying jobs. The chart below compares
the compensation for men and women for different jobs in restaurants. The
difference between males and
females when they first start
working at the restaurant is
very small. The smallest gap is
between a male and female
cashier when the difference is
only $0.04 an hour as a cashier
and then gradually increases to $3.91 an hour as a manager. (Ferdman) The pay
difference has nothing to do with the fact that women are taking jobs that pay less
because women are getting paid less to do the same job. One could argue that
women might be getting paid less due to the fact that they are getting extra
benefits that men do not, get such as flexible hours.
According to the chart on the right, the pay
difference between men and women depends on
the type of career, with the biggest gap in what are
considered to be male-dominated careers. (Miller).
For instance, there is a substantial gap in finance,
where women are only making 66 percent of what
males are making. On the other hand, in female
careers such as nursing the pay gap is much
smaller with only an 89 percent difference. This
raises the question of whether or not women are
paid less in certain positions because of the fact
that these jobs are considered something either a
man or a woman can do. Positions that are
considered male-dominated are also associated
with personality characteristics such as aggression,
qualities women are not generally thought to have.
(Knowledge @ Wharton)
This assumption is one of the main reasons
why “women still are much more likely to enter
occupations where the majority of workers are
female, including the health care, education and
human services fields. In addition, over half of all
women continue to be employed in lower-paying
sales, service and administrative support positions. Despite substantial gains in
the management fields, women still lag behind in other non-traditional fields
such as transportation, construction, and the science, technology, engineering
and mathematics (STEM) fields.” (Equal Pay Task Force ). Barbulescu analyzed
1,255 men and women who just graduated from a large, elite, one-year MBA
program and the types of jobs that they apply for after graduating. He found that
women tend to not apply for finance and consulting jobs that men applied for,
but apply for general management jobs instead. He concludes that the reason for
the pay gap because the jobs men were applying for pay a lot more than the jobs
that the females were applying for. (Knowledge @ Wharton)
Barbulescu argues that the reason women do not apply for these jobs
instead has to do with the work-life balance that such jobs offer them. Consulting
jobs, for example, tend to require a lot of nights in a hotel room, something that
most women would prefer not to do. This may be due to the fact that women have
a lot of household responsibilities that men typically do not have. (Knowledge @
Another reason Barbulescu suggests is that women are less likely to apply
to a job where they do not think they will get. For example, Barbulescu points to
the fact that women are less likely to apply for investment banking positions
because they feel they are less likely to get these jobs than males when in reality
they have the same chance of getting the job. But this does not mean that there is
not gender segregation once they get into the company. (Knowledge @ Wharton)
Women tend to not get promoted as quickly or as often as their male
counterparts even though they have the same level of education and the same
amount of experience. In fact, only 3 to 4 percent of CEOs are women while
almost half of the lower-level employees are women. (Sherwin) Silva et al. suggest
that one of the reasons given for this disparity is that mentor programs many
companies offer are not equally beneficial for women as for men. For example,
an interview was conducted with forty high-potential men and women who were
selected by their multinational company to take part in a mentorship program in
2008. The interviewers describe a relationship between a mentor and mentee
called sponsorship, in which the mentor uses his or her influence to advocate for
a mentee for promotions. Silva et al found that men tend to be sponsored more
often than women, putting women at a real disadvantage. They did a follow-up
survey in 2010 in which they found 15 percent more of the men were given
promotions, at the same time the men had an equal number of lateral moves
within the company as women. The women were given lateral moves within the
company instead of getting
promotions like the men. (Silva,
Carter and Ibarra)
Women tend to be over-
looked for the upper-level
management positions that are
typically given to men, even though
there are several studies that argue
that women are actually better
leaders than males. Sherwin
conducted a survey of just under 16,000 leaders, of which two-thirds were male
and one-third were female. The results on the previous page show that women
ranked better than males in twelve out of sixteen specific categories. One of the
reasons for this difference is in the words of a respondent, “In order to get the
same recognition and rewards, I need to do twice as much, never make a mistake
and constantly demonstrate my competence.” (Sherwin) While this is a sad truth
that many women feel this way, it also means that they are more likely to work
harder than their male counterparts to make sure that projects and tasks are
perfect. Women are typically viewed as more effective leaders as they move up
the ladder of a company, which means that there is no reason why companies
should not promote their women to higher positions. Women performed better
than men in fields that were typically considered male-dominated such as
engineering, IT and research and development. (Sherwin)
Another reason that women might not rank as highly as men in the
category of taking initiative might be due to the fact that women tend to pull
double duty as both employees and homemakers. (Sherwin) Women are still
pulling more weight around the house, according to the Time Use Data survey
that was released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. On an average week, women
spend 2.6 hours doing household chores compared to the 2.1 hours that men
spend doing the same work. On a daily basis, 49 percent of women do housework
such as cleaning or laundry compared to the 19 percent of men. This means that
women are less likely to work as many hours or require flexible hours because
they need to take care of the household responsibilities. (Sifferlin)
Women are more likely to stay at home and take care of the children in
addition to doing the households for a couple of reasons. In order for both
parents to work after having children, they either need to hire someone to watch
the children or one of them typically the women needs to stop working to raise
the child. This means that while the woman is being a stay-at-home mom, her
male counterpart is in the office gaining valuable experience that will allow him
to get more promotions and a higher salary.
There are a number of reasons that make it so women are not able to
return to the workforce as soon as they would like. The first is that women cannot
afford to work. In order for the women to go back into the office, they have to pay
for someone to watch the child. The map above shows that generally parents will
pay $8,280 to $11,700 for childcare. The cheapest is $5,467 in Alabama while
the most expensive is $21,948 in the District of Columbia. On top of the cost of
day care, someone has to watch the children when they come home from school
and drive them to activities such as dance, soccer, etc. In addition, someone has
to stay home with the children throughout school breaks and take care of the
children when they are sick. Most couples find that it makes more sense for the
women to stay home than to get a part-time job that will not cover the costs of
Another factor that might contribute to the speed with which women
return to the workforce is the amount of maternity leave women are given.
According to an article that appeared in Canadian Business Week, the amount of
parental leave was just increased from ten to thirty-five weeks combined with the
fifteen weeks of maternity leave that they are already given. A company does not
want to pay for the training a new employee who would need just to have her
leave for a full year or who might only return part-time or not return at all after
having her child. Maternity leave can also cause other employees in the company
or department to increase their workload to cover for the women on leave.
(Canadian Business )
In addition, women are less likely to get paid the same as men because
they are less likely to negotiate a pay rise than their male counterparts even
though they feel underpaid. In a 2006, survey Saner discovered “that while 80
percent of women felt underpaid, two-thirds had never asked for more money –
and those who had described it as one of the most stressful things they'd ever
done.” (Saner) Men, on the other hand, have no hesitation asking for a pay raise
and explaining to their bosses why they deserve more money. Part of this has to
do with the different way in which men and women are raised. Women are
viewed differently than men when they talk to their bosses about compensation.
While it is seen as socially acceptable for men to talk to their bosses about
compensation, women who do the same are viewed as greedy or money-hungry.
Sara Laschever, co-author of the book Why Women Don't Ask, writes, "We like
girls to be nice, pliable, pleasant, accommodating, while boys are taught to be
self-promoting, to be a little tough guy. Boys are encouraged to set goals and
taught how to go about reaching them; girls are taught to think about the needs
of a group.” (Saner) This means that women are encouraged to think about how
asking for pay raise might affect the other people in the office they know are
counting on their bonuses to pay their bills. Men, on the other hand, will only
Another major difference is the amount of hours women work compared
to their male counterparts. On average, when a man and a women work in an
office, the male will work an extra fifty-three minutes compared to the women.
(Sifferlin) As Claudia Gould, a labor economist at Harvard University, observes,
“The gender gap in pay would be considerably reduced and might vanish all
together if firms did not have an incentive to disproportionately reward
individuals who labored long hours and worked particular hours.” (Richards)
The chart on the next page shows how the total hours worked by
Americans compares with their counterparts in other countries. As the chart
indicates, the typical American tend to work 1,700 hours a year, which is about
thirty-three hours a week indicated by the blue line. This is a lot better than some
other countries such as Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong, while other
countries, such as
France and Germany,
work less hours a year
than Americans do.
(Weisenthal) So if the
average amount of hours
being worked is the
issue, this means France
and Germany should
have a more equal pay
rate than the United States; however French
women get paid 50 percent less while in China,
where they work more, women are paid 63
percent of what men are paid and the United States women are paid 66 percent of
what men are paid. (Kottasova) This means that there is no global consensus on
the amount of hours worked and the connection with equality in pay between
men and women. So if changing the amount of hours the country’s working is
not going to solve the problem of pay inequality, what will?
In 1963 President John F. Kennedy signed into law the Equal Pay Act.
This was the first law to address the issue that companies were paying women
less to do the same job as men simply because they were women. This act
required companies to pay women equally for jobs that are equal or substantially
equal in content as men. This legislation has greatly helped women in their battle
to achieve equal pay. In 1963, women were paid 59 cents for every dollar that a
France- Red Singapore- Maroon South Korea-
Orange Hong Kong- Purple Germany –Green
man earned; by 2011 women’s pay had increased to 77 cents for every dollar a
man earned. (Equal Pay Task Force ) Although the law has helped in the struggle
for women to be paid the same as men, there still needs to be a culture change to
ensure that men and women have the same opportunities.
This may be difficult to accomplish. The editor of Vogue drew fire for an
editorial entitled, “Year-long maternity leave, flexi hours and four day
weeks…why would ANY boss hire a woman?” (Canadian Business ). This is only
one of many statements saying that women are essentially asking too much of
their employers because they need flexible hours to take care of their children
and complete other household duties. By the same token, what would happen if
men started taking the same benefits and had the same responsibilities that
It is important to divide women workers into two different groups. There
is one group made up of women with young children; they have to work a more
flexible schedule so that they can be home to watch their children, take care of
household responsibilities, and drive their kids to their after-school activities. I
think that it is fair for this group of women to be paid less because, when they are
taking care of their children, they are not being as productive at work as the men
who are actively in the office working. This means that they are not working as
many hours and being as productive as their male counterparts and should be
compensated accordingly. Although these women are not getting paid at the same
rate as male employees, they utilize extra benefits that their male counterparts
This group of women negatively affects the second group of women in the
workforce. These women work as many hours as the men and do not need the
flexible hours that the first group of women require: their kids are older; they
have someone who can watch the children; or various other reasons. It is unfair
to underpay this group of women because they are doing the same amount of
work as their male co-workers and not taking the same benefits as the first group
An appropriate solution could be to offer men the same benefits that
women get, such as flexible time and paternity leave. This would give men and
women equal benefits and would eliminate the need for women to be paid less
than male co-workers. In order for this to happen, there needs to be a cultural
shift that encourages companies to give male employees these same benefits.
The only way that this will actually happen is if the government passes
legislation requiring that companies give their male employees these benefits.
Companies are not going to give employees extra benefits that no other company
is offering unless the government forces them to. However, the government will
not pass a law until there is a cultural shift. Unfortunately, this is a shift that
needs to come from men. In Canada this shift has already started to occur, with
more men taking advantage of parental leave because grandparents, who have
typically taken the responsibility for watching the children during the day, are
still in the workforce. This change will start to occur slowly as it becomes harder
for women to do everything and men have to pitch in and help out around the
house more. This will require them to need more of the flexible hours that women
already have . This will make the benefits more equal between men and women.
"The Dark Side of Maternity Leave". Canadian Business. 8 September 2011. 17
November 2014. <http://www.canadianbusiness.com/business
This article talks about how maternity leave negtively affects employers financially,
which may cause them to discriminate against women who they feel are going to
Equal Pay Task Force . ￼"Fifty Years After the Equal Pay Act". 2013. 17 November
This article discusses how the Equal Pay Act has helped women gain equal footing
over the past fifty years.
Ferdman, Roberto A. "There’s a Big Gap between What Men and Women Make in the
Restaurant Industry". Washington Post. 28 August 2014. 17 November 2014
This article compares the wages of men and women doing the same job in the
"Global Gender Pay Gap".
gap/>. The Huffington Post Canada 24 October 2012. 17 November
This article talks about how maternity leave in a bunch of different countries around
Hudiburg, Stephanie Keller and Ariane Hegewisch. "The Gender Wage Gap by
Occupation and by Race and Ethnicity, 2013".
Institute for Women Policy Research. April 2013.17 November 2014.
This article talks about the pay gap of men and women in different industries.
Kottasova, Ivana. "U.S. is 65th in World on Gender Pay Gap". CNN. 28 October 2014.
17 November 2014.
This article compares the gender pay gap in countries around the world.
Miller, Claire Cain. "Pay Gap Is Because of Gender, Not Jobs". 23 April 2014. New
York Times . 17 November 2014.
This article is discussing the difference between men and women's pay in different
Richards, Carl. "Fighting The Gender Pay Gap". New York TImes. 18 September 2014.
9 December 2014. <http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/08/your
This article talks about why women will not ask for a pay raises from their bosses.
Saner, Emine. "Why Women Won't ask For a Pay Raise". The Guardian. 27 August
2010. 17 November 2014
This article discusses about the reasons why women feel uncomfortable asking for a
pay raises from their employers.
Sherwin, Bob. "Why Women Are More Effective Leaders Than Men". Business Insider.
24 January 2014. 17 November 2014.
This article compares the management styles of men and women in a company and
found that women did better than men in 12 out of 16 criteria.
Sifferlin, Alexandra. "Women Are Still Doing Most of the Housework". Time. 18 June
2014. 17 November 2014. <http://time.com/2895235/men-housework
This article discusses about how women still do most of the housework in the
Silva, Christine , Nancy M. Carter and Herminia Ibarra. "Why Men Still Get More
Promotions Than Women". Harvard Business Review. September 17.
This article talks about how men in the office get more promotions than woman
because they get sponsored by mentors more frequently than women.
"The Return of the Stay-at-home-Mother". The Economist. 19 April 2014. 17
November 2014 <http://www.economist.com/news/united-
This article talks about the reasons that women are staying home after having
babies instead of returning to the workforce.
Tran, Andrew Ba. "Map: The Average Cost for Child Care by State." Boston Globe.2
July 2014. 17 November 2014.
This is a map of the average cost of daycare around the United States.
Weisenthal, Joe. "Check Out How Much The Average American Works Each Year
Compared to the French, the Germans, and the Koreans". Business Insider.17
August 2013. 17 November 2014
This is an article talking about the number of hours people from several different
countires work compared to people in the United States.
"Why Do Women Still Earn Less Than Men? Analyzing the
Search for High-paying Jobs". Knowledge @ Wharton. 01 August 2012. 17
November 2014. <http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/why-do
This paper talks about a study that Barbalescu does with men and women who have
graduated from an elite MBA program and discusses the types of jobs that men and
women apply for and why they chose to apply for those jobs.