As an active member of a vast network of women in stem across the globe and a proud member of the women in tech industry, I actively encourage young women in our SOCIHACKS educational programs to pursue careers in technology. For this reason, it is important to address the issue of gender pay gap, or the women’s pay gap.
The definition of gender pay gap
Despite the many industry professionals and experts that have written about the pay gap between men and women, there is still a question of whether the pay gap is real and why there is a gender pay gap in the first place. The definition of the gender pay gap for women is where a wage gap occurs when women are not given equal pay for substantially equal work compared to men. The Equal Pay Act was passed nearly six decades ago on June 10, 1963, for the sole purpose of the abolishing the pay gap between men and women.
The impact of race on the gender pay gap
In a recent analysis by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021), you’ll see in figure 1 below that in the second quarter of 2021, non-Hispanic, Caucasian women each week on average earned just $890 per week compared to $1,095 earned per week by non-Hispanic, Caucasian men in similar jobs. Even more alarming gender wage gap statistics are seen in the same report that shows an even broader men and women pay gap when race is a factor. Asian women were shown to earn more than white, non-Hispanic women, but still only $1,037 per week which was still less than white, non-Hispanic men. And the gender pay gap statistics are even more disturbing when the same report determined that black women earned just $746 per week and Hispanic women earned $714 per week compared to $1,095 earned per week by non-Hispanic, Caucasian men in similar jobs.
Figure 1: Women and Men’s Median Annual Earnings by race
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021)
In another recent study by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), projections show that Asian women will not receive equal pay compared to white, non-Hispanic men until the year 2041 at the current rate of closing the gender wage gap as shown in figure 2 below. And white, non-Hispanic women until the year 2069, Black women until the year 2369, and Hispanic women until the year 2451 – that’s over four centuries!
Figure 2. Women’s Median Annual Earnings as a % of White, non-Hispanic Men from 1988 – 2019 by race. From The Simple Truth about the Pay Gap, by AAUW. (2021, July 13).
Gender Pay Gaps for Women in STEM
For years, we have all seen countless articles about how STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers provide better pay and more opportunity for professional growth for women in technology. In the most recent analysis by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (2022) <link: https://www.bls.gov/emp/tables/stem-employment.htm>, STEM job opportunities are expected to grow 10.5% between 2020 and 2030. But according to the World Economic Forum (2021) <link: https://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GGGR_2021.pdf >, The gender pay gap in the USA, ranks 30rd on gender equality across the world. And for women of color, black women earn 15% less than white women and 35% less than white men according to a recent Goldman Sachs (2021) report <link: https://www.goldmansachs.com/our-commitments/sustainability/one-million-black-women/index.html?cid=scl-pd-twitter-onemillionbw-image-20213-pi-2–sponcon-1st >.
The AAUW (American Association of University Women) continue to address the STEM gap by addressing gender bias in schools, the workforce, education and the gender pay gap <link: https://www.aauw.org/app/uploads/2021/09/AAUW_SimpleTruth_2021_-fall_update.pdf>. Due to discrimination, sexism and systematic racism, women often face barriers that limit their opportunities to jobs that are male-dominated and offer lower-paying wages. In a recent report by Pew Research (2021) <link: https://www.pewresearch.org/science/2021/04/01/stem-jobs-see-uneven-progress-in-increasing-gender-racial-and-ethnic-diversity/), women in stem jobs tend to earn less than men, making only 74% of what men make in the same jobs enforcing the gender pay gap. And in their 2018 report, “Women and Men in STEM Often at Odds Over Workplace Equity”, <link: https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2018/01/09/women-and-men-in-stem-often-at-odds-over-workplace-equity/ >, half of the women in STEM jobs say they have experienced workplace discrimination as a female – which includes earning less than men doing the same job, having someone treat them as if they were not competent and receiving less support from senior leaders compared to a man doing the same job.
Pay Equity Laws Vary by State
Where a woman lives can have a huge impact on the gender pay gap. Each state of the US addresses the wage gap vary differently according to the state that women live in. There are current states with little to no laws that offer wage gap discrimination protections. As shown in Figure 3 below of the Map of US states with Equity Pay Provisions by the Association of American University Women, AAUW (The Simple Truth about the Pay Gap, 2021), one state, Mississippi, has no state pay equity or sex-based employment discrimination laws that would protect women from discrimination in the workplace. In all other states in the US, there are some basic equal pay protections that address the gender pay gap, but only around one-third of those states have weak laws or loopholes that allow employers to continue to pay women less wages than men without any repercussions. When women do have the courage to come forward, there are several states that do not offer protections to female employees who are retaliated against for speaking up.
Figure 3: Map of US States with Equal Pay Laws, by Strength in 2020.
From The Simple Truth about the Pay Gap, by AAUW. (2021, July 13)
There are a couple states in the US that show some progress as it relates to the gender pay gap. In 2021, California and Colorado, introduced new pay equity laws that address gender and race pay equity issues. The Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R.7) (link: https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/7#:~:text=The%20bill%20establishes%20the%20National,enforcement%20of%20equal%20pay%20laws>, an extension of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, passed the US House of Representatives on March 27, 2019, and has been sent to the US Congress for a vote.
The Paycheck Fairness Act would make it illegal for employers to pay unequal wages to men and women who perform equal work and would work to close the wage gap by making wages more transparent in reporting, require employers to provide evidence that wage discrepancies are tied to business qualifications and prohibit companies from retaliating against employees who file claims about gender-based wage discrimination and gender wage gap claims. It is important to analyze and review data and research around gender pay gap statistics and the gender pay gap in the USA to better understand how the women’s pay gap influences not only the tech industry but women across the US workforce.