Gender gap remains same even as women become higher wage earners

Story written by Jordan Meier.

COLUMBIA — Picture this: two doctors, one man and one woman. They do the same work, they work the same hours, they have the same credentials, and yet the man gets paid more than the woman.

More women are becoming the main source of income for their families in the U.S., and yet they still make less than their male counterparts, statistically speaking.

Women working in Missouri earned on average 22 percent less than men working the same jobs in 2014, according to the American Association of University Women. And according to the Pew Research Center, American women would’ve had to work about 40 days more last year to earn what American men did. The research center got this number by tracking the hourly earnings of both part-time and full-time workers.

“This has always been an issue. Lawsuit after lawsuit, case after case trying to get equal pay (for women),” said Joan Hermsen, an MU sociology professor specializing in women’s and gender studies.

“The debate has to do with what is causing it, not if it exists or not,” Hermsen said.

Malaika Horne, a specialist in women’s workplace issues based at the UM-St. Louis said the wage gap is caused partly by gender bias but other factors also play into it.

Horne, who is the director of UMSL’s Executive Leadership department, said the factors that affect the gap include the problem of the “glass ceiling,” which is the idea that women cannot be promoted beyond a certain level in companies.

Another factor, Horne said, is the idea that women tend to take on more domestic responsibilities outside of work, which keeps them from traveling and working overtime.

“You can’t just look at one factor as the cause for the wage gap,” Horne said.

When all these factors combine, she said it could potentially create some challenges when trying to keep a family financially stable.

According to Horne, by the end of an average woman’s life, male counterparts will have made $1 million more than the woman.

“Let’s say you started at a job making $1,000 a week, but your male counterparts made $1,250 a week. That’s a $250 difference, that may not seem like much, but that adds up over time,” said Vivian Eveloff, an academic director for UMSL’s Sue Shear Institute for Women in Public Life.

Eveloff has also experienced the gap first hand.

“I found out that I was not being paid like the men who were at the same seniority as me,” she said.

Eveloff felt that she deserved equal pay, so she talked with the human resources department at her company to see what could be done.

“I wasn’t just going to press charges,” Eveloff said.

After discussions with human resources, Eveloff’s pay was raised so that it equaled that of her male counterparts. Eveloff said it seemed like the company was moving toward equal pay for women in the company, and she thought it would stay that way.

That was until after she left the company. Eveloff said she received a call a few years after she left from women currently working at the company, asking her to join their lawsuit seeking damages for unequal pay.

Court cases and lawsuits having to do with this same situation have been filed across the country and some have gotten all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, but so far no laws have been passed to equalize pay.

Hermsen said that this problem will not likely be solved anytime soon for the women who fight for equal pay.

Some women will get the justice they want, but many will not and will continue to be paid a lower salary.

“I was lucky enough to have it fixed, most women don’t get that,” Eveloff said.

Both federal and state lawmakers have tried in the past to pass legislation to eliminate the pay gap. During the latest legislative session, Missouri Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, sponsored a bill to create guidelines for gender pay equality. But the bill never made it out of the House. According to the bill’s final summary, its opponents feared that it might encourage people to file lawsuits against companies.


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