The US Gender Wage Gap

This week I coded a report sponsored by the Center for American Progress Action Fund regarding the gender wage gap in America. The report stated the obvious: women in America are grossly underpaid annually. It also explained that the gender wage gap has devastating effects on America over a woman’s lifetime. On average, over a 40-year career, women loose $434,000 compared to their male counterparts. The report addresses the gender wage gap in terms of education level, occupation, and state, however, it fails to addresses that mothers are at greater risk of wage disparity than even their no-mother coworkers. The report does mention that the disparity in pay impacts mothers making it difficult for them to provide “education, child care, and basic supports for their children.” This seems like an obvious implication of the wage gap, however, it did not specify women leaving the workforce to mother children as a cause. We know that motherhood constitutes as a main contributor to the gender wage gap, yet Center for American Progress Action Fund minimized and even failed to address such points. (I don’t know why they would do this.)

I feel so thankful to have a gospel perspective. I think about the message that America is sending its women in regards to economic policy: you have no economic value if you are only a mother and partial value if you have children and work. Obviously, Americans place value on motherhood and its foundational qualities, however, the fact that women don’t receive economic benefits for parenting (and that men do) is a sickening. From my spiritual knowledge I know that being a mother is more important than any career I could pursue and that my economic value is priceless, however, my education, career decisions, and wages are equally important to those of fathers. Mothers are the foundation of this country. I believe that.

The report recommends government intervention through enacting and implementing new laws that bring equality to the work force. One of their recommendations was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which Pres. Obama recently signed. I think that bringing accountability to employers will better implement equality in pay between genders and race, however, it could present some serious implications. Consider this situation: a white male may deserve a raise or a promotion more than an African American woman coworker. Would the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act have negative implications on such cases?

As a psychology major I am programmed to analyze human behavior and thought. The WomanStats project actively supports and utilizes the changing of gender-biased policies globally, yet at its core is the motive to change human behavior. By applying psychology to the gender wage gap I am suggesting that the solution is not only one of policy, but also a nation-wide change of thought. I believe that appropriate policy encourages thinking about change but central to changing the gender wage gap is changing how we, as a nation, view the role of motherhood. Once we can individually and sincerely believe that women and men are equal, that motherhood and fatherhood are equal, then we approach a time where discrimination in the work place, and everywhere else, ends. We participate in WomanStats because we believe that this can happen.

—by ALA


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