Pay discrimination occurs when people with the same qualification and experience have different pay levels. The most relevant pay discrimination we see today is what we call the gender pay gap or the pay discrimination between men and women. There is a misapprehension that the gender pay gap is closing fast. The 2003-2013 pay gap rate only proves that this issue would not end in another 124 years. In 2012, female workers made only 77 cents for every dollar their male counterpart earned. This is a startling reality in the modern world and women continue to be discriminated solely on the basis of gender. There are a number of factors that contribute to this issue, but we need to seek ways to mitigate this problem.
According to Johnson gender pay gap, has deep roots to its origins in history. During the Second World War, large numbers of women entered the workforce after men were sent overseas for battle. They took up menial jobs which didn’t seem to have a promising pay. Although this was a period which marked the progress of women where they were inducted into the labor markets, the fact remained that they were to take up menial jobs with low pays and no promotion even if they were to work outside of their homes. This implied that when the war was over the men would come and take up the higher positions while the women were to remain in the lower positions. This trend stayed on even after the 1960’s where jobs were highly categorized by sex thus creating unequal opportunities (Johnson, “The Gender Pay Gap; Continually Hurting Women”).
The Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963 as the condition worsened. This Act was an attempt to comprehensively wipe out any discrimination in wages on the basis of gender. In spite of this Act being passed half a century ago, the gender pay gap still continues. It is a reality that affects both women and their families. The Washington post pointed to the fact that comparison of full-time employees on a weekly basis and year-round full-time employees differed in both the earnings as well as the duration of work. The difference loomed around gender specifically (Washington Post, “The Gender Wage Gap: 2011”). The disparity would be even lower if women were included in part-time and part-year jobs since the birth of a child usually contribute to a break in their career.
Firstly, women remained as minorities in high-level positions which reiterated the fact that their male counterparts more preferred reinforcing gender pay gap. This was mostly to the gendered division of work. Secondly, women chose low paying careers which obviously resulted in smaller profits. However, even with the emerging trends where women take up jobs that were once dominated by men such as software specialists, accounting, aviation, etc. they are still paid significantly smaller salaries. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research concluded in 2010 that 62% of women working in the private sector refrain from discussing wages fearing repercussions that might follow. They were also discouraged from doing the same because women who negotiated their salaries would then be labeled as “demanding”. Women also face discrimination because they take time off of work for motherhood. Despite the claims of a modern society, the American society still looks at women to be the sole contributors in the nurturing and upbringing of children. This is clearly evident since there are no options for men even today to take time off for caregiving or parenting chores. Hence, women are penalized with motherhood whereas fathers earn more when they have children. Women have no alternatives but to take breaks in their career when they have children to take care of.
The pay gap is worse for women of color because they are subject to discrimination due to two reasons- their womanhood and their color. The Washington post published in 2011 that the gender pay discrimination against women was universal across races and ethnic groups. Asian American workers have the highest median weekly earning. This can be attributed to the higher educational qualification of both men and women, however; women earn 22.6 percent less than the men. They experienced the biggest decline of 5.8 percent in the year 2011. The African American women earn almost 10 percent less than African American men on a weekly basis while the Hispanic women earn 9.3 percent less than Hispanic men. In contrast, African American and Hispanic men earn significantly less than their Caucasian counterparts. So when the gender wage gap was calculated with Caucasian wages as the comparison it was remarkably lesser for women of color. African American women earned over 30 percent less than Caucasian men on a weekly basis. The gender wage gap is almost 40 percent between Hispanic women and Caucasian men (Washington Post, “The Gender Wage Gap: 2011”).
Gender pay gap has definitely constrained the economic growth of a society increasing poverty. Thus, it is imperative to remove the barriers which prevent the entry and participation of women in the labor market. This would result in better economic results. Gender discrimination also reinforces the established stereotypes within families. Women are denied their rights both at work and home. Working women from the poorer sections of society have the additional burden of doing all the household chores as they cannot afford for someone to do the work for them. Their husbands would obviously not help in the household chores as it is unbecoming of a man to do such work, according to society. The outcome is the feminization of certain responsibilities within the family and society. This instigates the creation of a negative gender dynamic.
According to Babcock and Laschever, if women were to be protected from exploitation and violence, they would have to experience equal pay. Thus, equal pay also leads to the empowerment of women. Some countries like Netherlands have strived to make some improvements in order to achieve pay equity. In the Netherlands, women lawyers would earn a higher average hourly wage if they enter the labor markets earlier and if they secure higher grades at the university (Babcock and Laschever 20). However, the gender gap set in once they reach the age of 30; after this stage, the women will earn less than the men.
Lyons captures crucial moments when Lily Ledbetter tried to sue the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company over pay discrimination, however; the Supreme Court turned her down stating that she had waited too long before filing her case. The Court did not consider the fact that employer had prohibited the employees of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company from discussing their wages. Following the disappointment at Court, Lily Ledbetter petitioned the U.S. Congress. She wanted the time limitation to sue a company for pay discrimination to be extended or removed. In response to this petition, President Barrack Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Act into law in 2009. This Act allows women a reasonable period of time to sue a company (Lyons 372).
The Lily Ledbetter Act of 2009 is ably supported by the Fair Pay Act of 2005 to undermine the gender pay gap. These Acts sought to revise existing remedies, enforcements and exceptions to any violation of the prohibitions against pay discrimination. In addition, employers had to provide details of their pay structure to the Equal Employment Opportunity Committee to ensure pay transparency. Various legislations like the Lily Ledbetter Act and the Fair Pay Act have helped women who have faced pay discrimination. These legislations are a start to reducing and eventually eliminate gender pay gap in the United States. The success of these legislations rely heavily on a change of attitude in our society to the importance and role of women in the labor market (Education International, “The Gender Pay Gap – reasons and implications”).
"Why The Law Should Intervene To Disrupt Pay-Secrecy Norms: Analyzing The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act Through The Lens Of Social Norms." Lyons, Sarah. 2013. Web. Accessed on 14 July 2015.
“The Gender Pay Gap; Continually Hurting Women”. Johnson, Grant A. 2014. Web. Accessed on 14 July 2015.
“The Gender Pay Gap – reasons and implications.” Education International. 2011. Accessed on 14 July 2015.
“The Gender Wage Gap: 2011.” Washington Post. 2012. Web. Accessed on 14 July 2015.
Babcock, Linda and Laschever, Sara. Women Don't Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide.
Princeton University Press: United Kingdom, 2009. Print. P. 16-26.