What Is the Gender Pay Gap in 2023?
For decades, the gender pay gap has persisted in the U.S. While gradual progress has been made in recent years, the deficit between what men and women earn for the same job in the American workforce has yet to close.
The gender pay gap is a discriminatory phenomenon that entails employed women that 1) have the same qualifications as employed men; 2) perform the same role as employed men; yet 3) receive less compensation for no attributable reason.
Moreover, studies show that the pandemic has only slowed our nation’s progress toward equal pay for equal work. For the first time since 2015, the pay gap remained unchanged and instead held steady from 2021 to 2022.
Given fair pay legislation and federal laws in place to protect American workers against discrimination, including gendered variances in compensation, many Americans are surprised to learn that the gender pay gap is still an issue—even in 2023. Currently, U.S. women still earn $0.83 for every dollar earned by their white male counterparts.
This rate grows increasingly worse for women of color and employed mothers, as recent data shows that:
- AANHPI women earn $0.75 for every dollar earned by white males. This includes women of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander descent, who earn approximately 25% less than white men. This equates to an annual loss of $12,600.
- Black women earn $0.63 for every white man's dollar. Black female employees earn 36% less than white men, equating to $22,692 per year.
- Latina women earn $0.54 for every dollar that white, non-Hispanic men earn. Latinas earn 46% less than white men, equating to a deficit of $30,551 each year.
- Native American women earn $0.51 for every white man's dollar. This results in approximately 49% less than white men and an annual deficit of $25,253.
- Working mothers earn $0.58 for every dollar earned by white men. This is 42% less than working fathers, a phenomenon commonly known as “the motherhood penalty.”
What Federal Laws Enforce Equal Pay for Women?
U.S. employees have the right to non-discriminatory pay. There are several federal laws that protect against discrimination in compensation, including:
- The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA). The EPA requires that men and women be paid the same for equal work. It prohibits employers from paying unequal wages to men and women in occupations that require substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility, and are performed under similar working conditions in the same establishment. The jobs do not have to be identical in nature assuming the above items are true.
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII protects against sex discrimination in compensation.
- Age Discrimination and Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA). The ADEA prohibits discrimination in any aspect of employment, including compensation, hiring, termination, job assignments, promotions, benefits, and more.
- Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Like Title VII and ADEA, the ADA prohibits discrimination in the American workplace on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability.
Why Does the Gender Pay Gap Exist?
Despite numerous federal and state laws intended to prohibit discrimination in the American workplace, the gender pay gap has persisted. Research indicates that reasons for the gender pay gap are systemic, not to mention a direct depiction of society valuing women's work less than men's work.
There are various theories regarding the concerning continuity of the gender pay gap in the United States, such as:
Occupational segregation occurs when one demographic group (such as men or women) is overrepresented or underrepresented in a particular job. Unconscious biases and harmful gender stereotypes permit society to determine what jobs are considered “suitable” for one demographic group while ostracizing and penalizing members who stray from the norm.
Female employees in male-dominated industries tend to face larger deficits in compensation compared to their white male counterparts. If more women continue to enter male-dominated fields, research shows that the compensation for these positions will drop.
Children are socially conditioned to learn gender roles at an early age. Gender stereotypes influence the types of activities, behavior, and belief systems that girls and boys engage with in adolescence, ultimately shaping the role they will assume as adults in society.
In many cases, women can be directly or indirectly discouraged from working altogether, as there are patriarchal elements engrained in our societal fabric that promote women as wives, mothers, housekeepers, and caregivers.
Many girls are socially conditioned to pursue occupations that are deemed more “nurturing”—such as nursing, teaching, housekeeping, retail, and other service-oriented positions—because these are the occupations that society considers acceptable for women.
Another potential reason behind the perpetuation of the gender pay gap is the existence of traditional gender roles. These are rules or behaviors that are considered “appropriate” for a particular gender as determined by prevailing cultural norms.
Cultural norms enforce the notion that women don’t belong in the American workforce, but in the home. U.S. society tends to perceive women as moms and homemakers—positions central to the idea that women should be submissive and remain in the domestic sphere.
Given that employed mothers still earn 42% less than working fathers, these outdated and longstanding gender roles likely play a key part in perpetuating the gender pay gap.
Barriers to Hiring, Promotion, & Leadership
The infamous “glass ceiling” metaphor is used to represent the invisible barriers that women face in the American workplace. For example, women are more likely than male employees to be barred from promotions and pay raises.
The issue is also prevalent in leadership and management roles—higher-paying positions for which women often go unconsidered, as such titles are often given to males with comparable (or even fewer) qualifications. For every 100 men, approximately 86 women are promoted, meaning that there are far fewer women in leadership roles such as department heads, directors, and C-suite positions.
The latter is a nod to the validity of the gender pay gap, as 62% of C-suite positions are currently held by male employees while only 20% are held by white women. As you can imagine, the rate drops significantly for women of color, equating to a staggering 4%.
The “Ask Gap”
While salary negotiations aren’t inherently bad, they may not be doing female employees any favors, either. The “Ask Gap” is a common term used to describe gender discrepancies in hiring and pay.
Not only are women offered lower starting salaries than male employees in the same positions, but they are also less likely to receive a requested raise. Contrary to popular belief, research shows that women ask for raises just as often as men—but while 20% of male employees receive the pay raise they requested, only 15% of women can say the same.
Holding U.S. Employers Accountable for Gendered Pay
While slow, painstaking advances have been made to close the gender pay gap in the U.S., there is still much work to be done if we wish to achieve gender equality in the American workplace.
Consider the following ways that we can continue the fight for equal pay:
- Honesty and transparency about pay. Employers stand to benefit when employees refrain from discussing compensation and benefits in the workplace. While discussing money can feel socially taboo, encouraging employees to engage in candid conversations about pay can help identify unfair discrepancies in compensation and reduce pay gaps among employees who may be unaware they're being discriminated against in the first place.
- Companies should regularly review records to ensure there aren’t patterns of pay discrepancy. Examining internal compensation data on a regular basis can help companies avoid perpetuating pay gaps between male and female employees.
- Eliminate salary negotiations from the hiring process. Studies show that when male and female candidates with comparable qualifications negotiate pay, women ask for 6% less than men. Moreover, the median offer for women in the U.S. is $2,200 less than the starting offer for men in the same position. Altering or eliminating salary negotiations altogether can help prevent gender-based discrimination in compensation.
Fiercely Advocating for the Rights of Tennessee Employees
For over 35 years, our trusted employment law attorneys have passionately represented hardworking employees in Tennessee. We know how hard our clients work to provide for their families and maintain the work-life balance they deserve. If you’ve been discriminated against in the American workplace, you have the right to make your voice heard.
That’s where our firm comes in. At Donati Law, PLLC, we take pride in advocating for the rights of employed men and women in the Mid-South area. Our dedicated attorneys have been repeatedly recognized as some of the top-rated employment lawyers in the region. Don’t wait to pursue the justice you deserve.
If you’ve experienced discrimination in the workplace, you deserve support from a trusted employment lawyer who can restore your rights. Call (901) 209-5500 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.