Women and the Gender Gap: 2044 Is Too Long to Wait
I don’t know about you, but in my opinion, 27 years is a long time to wait for equal pay. By that time, I’ll be in my sixties and hopefully no longer climbing the proverbial corporate ladder. Fast Company reports, “The wage gap in developing countries could be reduced by 35 percent by 2030 and eliminated by 2044, according to a new report from consultancy Accenture.” Supposedly, it’s partially up to women to enter into more STEM-related fields, but workplaces bear some responsibility, too.
Fast Company also mentions the need for more flexible schedules, citing the difference between full-time and part-time work as contributing to the pay gap, as well. Flexible schedules are quickly becoming popular in many places of work, so hopefully that will help women who require more non-traditional working hours. Accenture cites what they call ‘digital fluency’ as being the potential key to women finally closing the pay gap.
Their report also names several specific actions and attributes related to digital fluency that are supposed to affect work and earnings: taking a coding or computing course; adopting a new technology quickly; and continuously learning new digital skills. Accenture cites digital fluency (along with more proactive approaches to career strategy and deeper immersion in tech), to have the potential to globally reduce the pay gap by 35 percent by the year 2030. However, closing the pay gap may be more complicated than making a list of skills and actions to check off.
The Economic Policy Institute expresses part of the problem quite eloquently in its gender gap report, noting the following: “However, the adjusted gender wage gap really only narrows the analysis to the potential role of gender discrimination along one dimension: to differential pay for equivalent work. But this simple adjustment misses all of the potential differences in opportunities for men and women that affect and constrain the choices they make before they ever bargain with an employer over a wage.”
The report’s authors are clearly trying to shed light on the kind of prejudice and discrimination that is difficult to pin down and document, since it is so subtle and most palpably felt by the victims of said discrimination, specifically—as opposed to all members of the affected workplace.
According to Earnest, women in upper-level management roles feel the pay gap the most, earning 17 cents less than their male peers for every dollar earned. However, the pay gap may be non-existent or even reversed for female-dominated service positions such as baristas or cashiers. The difference is also keenly felt in high-earning positions such as physician, director, and attorney.
When it comes to management especially, it seems ironic that women would be paid less, considering the University of Southern California Psychology department’s citation of research that has shown women to be rated higher on tests of emotional intelligence than men. Emotional intelligence has been linked to a more collaborative and inclusive leadership style: this advantage would seem to favor women and be reflected in pay differential, but that is not the case. A combination of inner and outer awareness is ideal: those with high emotional intelligence should be able to detect and respond to others’ moods, motivations, and desires, but they should also be self-aware and attuned with values, beliefs, and thinking.
Let us return to the subject of technology. Although women have historically been underrepresented in the tech sector, there are a number of reasons why more women should enter into STEM-related disciplines.
First, men and women approach and think of issues differently: men solve problems logically or linearly, while women tend to think more holistically. This results in situations being assessed with more attention given to various factors, outcomes, and possibilities. Second, more women will offer more diversity in creation, thought, ideas, and inventions for a global marketplace.
Third, as we’ve been discussing, more women in tech will help to close the gender wage gap faster, ideally changing the perception of women as they contribute to the global workforce. And finally, because technology is assuming a larger role in healthcare and education, women with a background in these fields can utilize new and emerging technological findings in these areas to their advantage: for example, educators can utilize virtual reality software to help transport students to different times and places for, say, a history lesson; and healthcare administrators can utilize augmented reality software to help train new surgeons in procedures without need for an actual patient in the flesh.
One factor I’ve yet to address is that of race and ethnicity: according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, “Hispanic women will have to wait until 2248 and Black women will wait until 2124 for equal pay.” Those are some pretty depressing statistics right there. Part of the problem may lie in the discrepancy between perception among different genders and races. For example, Pew Social Trends reports the percentage of men versus women who agree with the statement that “A major reason for the gender pay gap is that employers treat women different than men,” and the difference in percentage points is quite striking: while 78 percent of women who have been discriminated against agree with this statement, only 38 percent of men do.
Since the gender wage gap definitely does exist, it would behoove companies, both ethically and financially, to do something to buck the status quo: Fortune cites Standard & Poor in reporting that “[F]emale representation in top management leads to an increase of $42 million in firm value. It also concluded that companies that prioritized innovation saw great financial gains when women were part of the top leadership ranks.” This financial advantage alone should be enough of an incentive to promote more women to C-suite-level positions.
Ideally, in the not-too-distant future, each of us will be fairly compensated with equal pay for equal work. In the meantime, the best countermeasures are awareness, education, and legislation. It’s up to each of us to ensure that we achieve at least two of these three factors.