The Pay Gap between Genders
Back in 1960s, President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law, making it illegal to pay men and women employees in the same establishment different wages for substantially equal work. Even though federal laws protect women against discrimination, a pay gap persists. Women earn less than men in general. According to a study, “women employed full-time earn only 76.6 cents on average for each dollar earned by males by 2003” (Hughes 264). Masculine “ideal worker” norm lives in most of the high-reward occupations such as engineering and medicines. In contrast, female employees usually take the subordinate roles in the workforce, and these positions usually provide lower salaries. This inequality has been socially constructed, and it is caused by many forces including occupational segregation, “glass ceiling” and family responsibility.
Men and women tend to work in different occupations and wages differ substantially according to the gender composition of the occupation. In order to write this paper, I did a little research at salary.com. The average yearly salary of an engineer in California is about $70,000 comparing to the average salary of a registered nurse is only about $55,000. I also find out that a firefighter earns far more than a high school teacher; a corporate lawyer earns more than a family lawyer. When I mention the terms “engineers”, “firefighters”, and “corporate lawyers”, people will automatically have a male figure in their mind to match up these occupations. This phenomenon is caused by one form of stereotype called occupational segregation in the labor market. In other words, occupational segregation is the concentration of a similar group of people (males, females, whites, blacks, etc) in a particular job. For the same reason, when I mention “nurses”, “school teachers”, and “family lawyers”, people naturally imagine a female face to match up these occupations since these positions are usually dominated by women. From these finding, I conclude that male dominated occupations usually provide higher pay than female occupied positions.
Despite the different distribution of male and female workers in the labor market, a few women change their fates by challenging some careers traditionally dominated by male. They obtain success through market experiences and educations. Nevertheless, there is always a “glass ceiling” which means a set of invisible barriers that prevent women from further advancing. For example, my aunt’s friend, Nancy, entered a company as an accountant right after she graduated from business school in the University of Los Angeles. Five years later, her working experiences only allowed her to climb up a little higher in the managerial hierarchy with only 15 percent wage rise. It is true that there are many jobs that classified as executive, administrative, and managerial were held by women, but only a very few of these women were at the very top. Their advancement was limited by a set of invisible wall. The absence of women in the top management level is a result of gender discrimination. Even though they had the qualified education level and experience, sadly, they are not able to break through the “glass ceiling” to reach the uppermost level in institutional hierarchy.
Some people argue that women work fewer hours than men because they need more time to take care of their families, especially if the family consists of more than one child. Women who have at least a child are less likely to have a full-time career than those who are childless. This is what happens to my mother. My mother told me that she never worked in a full-time job after she gave born my brother and me. When my brother and I were still infants, she even quitted her job to be full-time taking care of both of us. Many working mothers choose to be part-time workers in order to balance their family responsibilities. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 29.7 percent of custodial mothers were part-time workers in 2001. With nearly one-third of the mothers bringing in less income, this will explain more about the pay gap between male and female workers. In addition, working mothers are no longer free to take on time-consuming tasks or are less motivated because of their family responsibilities. Nevertheless, the high-pay positions usually concentrate on the top of management such as board executive in a corporation, and the tasks are always considered time-consuming. Therefore, married women or working mothers are usually excluded from those high-paying jobs.
In conclusion, the trend of pay gap between male and female is the result of many forces. Primarily, the occupations that are dominated by male have higher pay than those occupied by female. Secondly, the invisible “glass ceiling” has become a hand string to women’s success in the top and has kept them away from promotions. Thirdly, the family responsibilities carried by women are much heavier than those carried by men, which have affected women’s status of their work. As a woman myself, I feel this pay gap is a form of gender discrimination and it needs to be changed immediately. We want more women to participate in male-dominated occupations. In order to do so, we need to have more female students to major in areas such as engineering, architecture, and management. We can break through the “glass ceiling” by the means of educations and practices. I think employers will see our motivations and strengths through hardworking. Moreover, as many good quality daycare centers emerge, working mothers can take a break from babysitting so that they can have more time and focus to develop a full time career. To narrow down the pay gap between man and women is going to be time-consuming and challenging since this gap has been socially constructed for hundreds of years; yet, women are commendable to be the victors in this long run.