The US Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) recently filed a lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation (USSF) for gender discrimination and equal pay, bringing back to the forefront the issue of gender pay gap. According to the lawsuit, women players were paid $15,000 from 2013 to 2016 while men players were paid $55,000 in 2014. Similarly, women players could earn a maximum of $99,000 if they win all non-tournament games they are required to play, whereas men players could earn $263,320. The stark contrast was originally attributed by the USSF as based on the revenue generated by the teams’ games. However, The Journal found that the women’s team’s games actually generated more than the men’s team. From 2016 to 2018, women’s games generated about $50.8 million while the men’s games generated about $49.9 million.
This situation extends way beyond the soccer stadium. Women working in regular workplaces earn less than the men. However, a more significant gap is evident among ethnicities. In 2018, Hispanic women workers have lower earnings than their contemporary White, Black, and Asian women workers. Hispanic women earn only 61.6% of White men’s earnings. In comparison, Hispanic women earn 85.7% of the earnings of Hispanic men. Black women 89% of the earnings of Black men, and 65.3% of the earnings of White Men. The only group with positive earnings ratios is Asians. Asian women earn 93.5% of the earnings of White men; but their earnings only amount to 75.5% of Asian men. Another study cited differences even between the earnings of single women and married women with children.
Factors that lead to the wage gap
The most common reason cited for the wage gap is discrimination. Aside from discrimination based on race, there is also discrimination against gender. Although this is hard to prove by itself, the hiring and wage-setting practices of companies indicate much of it and can definitely be considered as factors in it. Likewise, traditionally feminine jobs typically have lower wages than traditionally masculine jobs. According to the Center for American Progress, the difference in occupation is a significant factor in the wage gap. Another factor that comes hand-in-hand with this issue is the willingness or the confidence to negotiate. It has been noted that men are more aggressive when it comes to negotiating with their employers about salary or raises. However, a Harvard study showed that for women, not negotiating for their salary or raise is not a matter of confidence but of fear of social backlash. Women are held to a double-edged standard where they are expected to be strong but not to demand more than what they are given.
Another reason cited as the cause of the wage gap is the difference in hours spent at work. Although the difference in the hourly wage between men and women is not significant, the difference becomes significant once it is aggregated. Gender roles expect women to spend more time caring for their children than men. As such, women are less likely to work overtime, and take more time off than their male counterparts. With this in mind, it is easy to see how women with children, especially single mothers, can be easily left behind in terms of wage. For single mothers, lack of access to affordable child care is a big hindrance in their careers. It not only affects their progress; it also makes some women fear for their employment.
Certainly, these things do not count as discrimination, but they are the result of social norms that make the playing field uneven. Although women are not required to skip work to take care of a sick child, they have been conditioned from childhood, and thus expected, to do so—much more than the child’s father. Similarly, women often have to do chores and other housework after work, so they tend to divide their time and avoid long hours at work. Overall, these make it seem like married women are not as devoted to work as their male counterparts, therefore they are less likely to receive promotions and salary raises.
Wage gap for other minorities
Women are not the only sector affected by the wage gap. People of color also earn significantly less than their White counterparts. Studies have shown that for every dollar earned by a White man, a Black man earns $0.87, Native American and Hispanic men earn $0.91, while a Pacific Islander man earns $0.95. Unlike other ethnicities, however, Asian men earn $1.15. For women of color, however, this is even worse news as women tend to earn less than their male counterparts.
What can be done?
These obstacles faced by women cannot be changed by slogans saying that men and women are equal. Rather, there needs to be policies that will help make the ground level for women, especially those who are in difficult situations. For instance, legislation like the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY Act) aims to create a leave insurance program that will help the working class address family and medical needs without having to sacrifice their income or risk losing their jobs.
Companies themselves should also work to modify their parental leave policies. These parental leaves should not just be aimed at mothers, but also for fathers. Considering the disparity in roles taken by males and females in the home, fathers should also be encouraged to be more present—to take leaves—for their children.
All these, of course, should be supplemented by change in attitudes toward men and women's roles in the household.
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