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The wage gap is more drastic than you think

In the United States, women lose a combined total of over $840 billion every year due to the wage gap

Mitra Shafii, Staff Reporter
Originally published February 16, 2018

Graphic by Mitra Shafii

Graphic by Mitra Shafii

Everyday, a man and a woman go to work. They do the same job. They work equally as hard for the same amount of time. The only difference is that one of them earns almost double what the other earns. Is that fair?

The definition of “wage gap” is the difference in salary between men and women. Many people don’t realize that the wage gap is not only the discrimination of gender, but also of race, ethnicity, age, marital status, motherhood, education, and socioeconomic status. Men and women should be paid the same amount for the same job. Demographics should play no part in determining someone’s salary.

The fact that there is still a wage gap in America is an irrefutable example of the bigotry that persists in our society. The U.S. is the most powerful country in the world, yet its wage gap ranks at only the 28th lowest out of 145 countries, behind many third world countries.

In 2016, women working full time in the United States were paid 80.5 cents to every white man’s dollar. This statistic represents the average earnings of all racial backgrounds combined. What many people don’t talk about is that the gap widens by race. Asian women earn 86.8 cents to every white man’s dollar, and 76.9 cents to every Asian man’s dollar. White women earn 79 cents to every white man’s dollar. Black women earn 62.5 cents to every white man’s dollar, and 87.5 cents to every black man’s dollar. Hispanic or Latina women earn 54.4 cents to every white man’s dollar, and 84.4 cents to every Hispanic or Latino man’s dollar.

The news is cluttered with articles claiming that the wage gap is closing so people think the issue has been resolved and stop caring. The American Association of University Women (AAUW) is an organization whose goal is to advance equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, research, and philanthropy. It’s true that the wage gap is closing, and it’s the smallest it’s ever been, however, “If change continues at the slower rate seen since 2001, women will not reach pay equity with men until 2119, ” AAUW’s website says. This is unacceptable. There’s no reason that women shouldn’t already be making the same amount of money as men.

The National Partnership for Women & Families promotes fairness in the workplace. According to them, women who are employed full time in the United States lose a combined total of more than $840 billion every year on average because of the wage gap. If there was no wage gap, a working woman in the United States “would have enough money for approximately 1.2 additional years of tuition and fees for a four-year public university, or a two-year community college.”

According to the National Partnership for Women & Families, Seattle is tied with Boise, Idaho for the third largest wage gap among the top 20 U.S. cities. On average, women make 78 cents on the dollar in Washington, but only 76 cents on the dollar in King County.

Samaan Ghani is a software development engineer at Amazon. She has meetings with her manager to discuss her salary and she feels comfortable bringing it up. She thinks that pay transparency, and getting more women in the workforce are crucial in order to shrink the wage gap. “Everyone is contributing equally so everyone should be compensated equally,” Ghani said.

Principal Keven Wynkoop says there isn’t a wage gap between teachers at the school. “The way that salaries are determined only takes into consideration your experience and your educational background,” Wynkoop said. “There’s no excuse for [the wage gap] at this point.”

Fighting inequality can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to. An individual person can’t fix the wage gap by themselves, but if everyone does a little bit, it can make a huge impact. If you have any privilege over someone else, use that privilege to try to help them. When Jessica Chastain found out that Octavia Spencer was making five times less than her on a movie they did together, Chastain tied their contracts together so they would be paid the same amount. White men need to start doing this with their minority coworkers. Many things can shrink the wage gap. Raising the minimum wage and tipped minimum wage, supporting pay transparency, supporting fair scheduling practices, investing in affordable high-quality child care and early childhood education, passing paid sick days legislation, passing a national paid family and medical leave insurance program, and enforcing paternity leave. We know that these things would help, yet we aren’t actively trying to accomplish any of them.

Gender equality can’t exist until the wage gap ceases to exist.

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The wage gap is more drastic than you think