THE U.S. CONGRESS JOINT ECONOMIC COMMITTEE put their conclusion in stark terms. Though some advances are being made, the gender pay gap will not close until 2059. Presently, women on average in the United States make $10,800 less than their male counterparts, based on median annual earnings. Over the course of a career, this loss adds up to nearly half a million dollars.
Something else they found was equally striking: “Women make up only 26% of highly paid executives, but 71% of low-paid cashiers.”
Writer Lydia Dishman from Fast Company noted that the Hired Group made its own discoveries from its recruiting platforms that others use:
“Hired found that, on average, companies were offering women between 3% and 30% less than for men for the same roles … Our data – which spans technology, sales, and marketing roles – shows that 69% of the time, men receive higher salary offers than women for the same job title in the same company.”
Canada has its own story to tell on this subject and I learned much just from going over the Canadian Women’s Foundation website. It was troubling:
- The percentage of working women in Canada has increased from 42% to almost 60% in the last 30 years.
- About 70% of part-time workers in 2013 were women – unchanged over the last three decades.
- Based on the current gender wage gap in Ontario (31.5%), a woman would have to work an extra 14 years to make what a man makes by the time he retired at 65.
- In 2008, female university graduates earned $62,800 a year, while men earned $91,800.
- A woman’s lower earning power means they face a higher risk of falling into poverty if they have children and become separated, divorced, or widowed.
This is a lot of data, I know, but it paints a pretty clear and troubling picture – one that isn’t changing nearly dramatically enough. While young women are more likely than their male counterparts to hold a university education, a greater number of them are the sole providers in their home. That means their financial security is often at risk. For women, their pay cheque isn’t just for themselves, but is the sustenance of entire households.
Lost in all this is what our economy look like if women were equally financially rewarded for the same work as men. Increasingly, economists are warming to the reality that a fairly paid female employee is actually a financial powerhouse, capable of purchasing and investing far greater sums of money into local economies. The American group, National Partnership for Women and Families, reckons that if women were paid equally to men for full-time work, they would be able to afford an additional seven months of mortgage and utilities, or 1.6 years of food annually. If you’re looking for some kind of action that could credibly alleviate poverty, this could be it.
At some point we have to put an end to realities such as that, of the women making up almost half of the workforce in Canada, only 5% are CEOs, only 15.9% sit in boards. It is a disservice to us all and cheapens our supposed prosperity as a nation. Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan surely had it right when noting, “Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development, and building good governance.”
This is our great challenge of the moment. Without equal pay women can’t fully enrich their families, their communities, their countries, their world. And neither can anyone else. There are two genders but one human race and the latter can’t advance until the former are truly equal. Or in the remarkable brief flash of inspiration by Susan Anthony: “Men, their rights, and nothing more; women, their rights, and nothing less.