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April 10 2018

5 Drivers of the Pay Gap – They Are Not Gender Discrimination

by Patrice Lee Onwuka

Today, millions of women will rise and go to work to earn a living and chase their dreams. Women are fortunate enough to be able to pursue many different jobs and careers in every industry that generations of women before them only dreamed of.

It is Equal Pay Day, a holiday that highlights how long women have to work to earn enough to make up for the previous year's wage gap. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women’s average weekly earnings in full-time jobs were 82 percent of those for men in 2016.   

Many are quick to point to gender discrimination in the workplace as the driver of the pay gap, but the data don't support that claim.

Before women start looking sideways at their male colleagues, let's understand what drives the differences in what men and women earn on. The wage gap is largely driven by choices women make.

Here are 5 drivers of the pay gap:

  1. Women work fewer hours than menWhen we control for hours worked and compare men and women both working 40 hours per week in 2016, the pay gap shrinks to 11 percent.

  • The average man working full time spends 8.3 hours per day on the job, compared to 7.8 hours for the average woman working full time.  

  • Eighty-eight percent of men work full time compared just 75 percent of women.

  • Men comprise 69 percent of those clocking overtime (41 hours or more) each week and they 75 percent of those who work over 60 hours each week.

  1. Women and men take on different roles in their familiesThere's almost no pay gap for single women without children. 

  • Those working full time earn 95 percent of the weekly median earnings of their male counterparts. 

  • The wage gap begins to widen around age 25, likely due to choices about family roles.  

  • Fewer mothers than fathers say they would rather work full time than part time.

  1. Women more often work in lower-paying professions.

  • The most common jobs for women such as education and healthcare, generally pay less than the most common jobs for men including computer and engineering jobs

  • In 2016, just 10 percent of women in professional and related occupations were employed in the relatively high-paying computer (median weekly earnings of $1,325) and engineering ($1,207) fields, compared with 46 percent of men.

  1. Women and men make different choices in education and training.

  • Many college majors that lead to high-paying roles such as in tech and engineering are dominated by men, while majors that lead to lower-paying roles in social sciences and liberal arts tend to be female-dominated.

  • Women consider non-financial issues like enjoyment of future work when choosing a major, while men are more concerned with salaries and status.  

  1. Men are more likely to work in dangerous work conditionsMany risky and dangerous jobs pay higher wages.

  • The most dangerous jobs are overwhelmingly worked by men and men suffer more workplace injuries than women.

Check out this takeaways document for more on drivers of the pay gap.

 

Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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