The gender pay gap refers to the difference in earnings between men and women. It is often the result of various factors, including occupational segregation, discrimination, and unequal access to opportunities.

In 2020, women working in full-time or salary jobs had median weekly earnings that was 82% of their male counterparts

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While progress has been made in recent years to reduce the gender pay gap, it still exists here in the United States. 

What Factors Contribute to the Gender Pay Gap

One of the main factors contributing to the gender pay gap is occupational segregation, which occurs when women are disproportionately represented in lower-paying fields such as education, healthcare, and social services. 

Various factors, including cultural and societal expectations about gender roles, discrimination in the workplace, and differences in educational and career aspirations, can cause occupational segregation. For example, women may be encouraged to pursue careers in education and healthcare, while men pursue careers in fields in STEM, finance, or business.

The consequences of occupational segregation can be significant, as it can lead to unequal pay and limited opportunities for women to advance in their careers. Jobs that women traditionally hold tend to be lower paying and offer fewer opportunities for advancement, while jobs that men traditionally have tend to be higher paying and provide greater opportunities for advancement.

Efforts to address occupational segregation include:

  • Promoting equal access to education and training in all fields.
  • Encouraging women to pursue careers in traditionally male-dominated fields.

These efforts can help create a more diverse and inclusive workforce where individuals can pursue their career aspirations without being limited by gender.

Discrimination can also play a role, as women may be paid less than their male counterparts for the same job and face barriers to advancement and promotion.

Another contributing factor to the gender pay gap is the impact of motherhood on women’s earnings. Women often take time off work to have children or to care for their families, which can result in lower pay and fewer opportunities for advancement. Additionally, women are often penalized for asking for more flexible work arrangements that would allow them to balance work and family responsibilities.

Reducing the Gender Pay Gap

Reducing the gender pay gap requires a multifaceted approach that addresses the underlying causes of the issue:

  • occupational segregation
  • promoting equal pay for equal work
  • providing more opportunities for women to advance in their careers
  • supporting working mothers, including access to affordable childcare and flexible work arrangements.

Ultimately, closing the gender pay gap is not only a matter of fairness and equality but also essential for promoting economic growth and prosperity.

When women are paid fairly for their work, they can better support themselves and their families and are more likely to contribute to their communities and the broader economy.