Is There Still a Male-Female Wage Gap in America?

RedTracker| Today is Equal Pay Day. It is factually correct but overly simplistic to say that women make only 77% of what men earn for working full time. Our focus must be those areas in which same job discrimination exists — where men and women doing exactly the same job are paid differently.

We’re not ready to accept the argument that such discrimination doesn’t exist but the analysis must be apples and apples. 

We do agree with certain facts outlined by Carrie Lukas, executive director of the Independent Women’s Forum, as outllined in her essay for WSJ ‘There Is No Male-Female Wage Gap

Full-time working women spend an average of 8.01 hours per day on the job, compared to men working 8.75 hours, says the Department of Labor’s Time Use survey. For several reasons, men work longer hours than women, and one can’t factor child care responsibilities into the pay equation as justification for better take home pay for women.

Women gravitate toward jobs with fewer risks, more comfortable conditions, regular hours, more personal fulfillment and greater flexibility. Simply put, many women—not all, but enough to have a big impact on the statistics—are willing to trade higher pay for other desirable job characteristics.

This assertion is true; part of work-life balance for many women involves trading money for flexibility.The challenges of who takes care of the kids is another discussion that can’t be resolved in salary comparisons.

Men are more likely to be working with unpleasant factors like construction, for which they are paid a premium. Many of those groups have a history of strong unions as well, and while collective bargaining is under attack in America, their impact on men’s salaries is historically significant. Lukas omits this fact in her essay, but we find it relevant.

Recent studies have shown that the wage gap shrinks—or even reverses—when relevant factors are taken into account and comparisons are made between men and women in similar circumstances. In a 2010 study of single, childless urban workers between the ages of 22 and 30, the research firm Reach Advisors found that women earned an average of 8% more than their male counterparts. Given that women are outpacing men in educational attainment, and that our economy is increasingly geared toward knowledge-based jobs, it makes sense that women’s earnings are going up compared to men’s.

This argument is factually correct from our research, too. Even this statistic is looking at groups of people of a certain age in a specific city, and not comparing specific jobs — which is the question at hand. Are women and men paid equally for doing the same job with comparable results?

Reviewing an Equal Pay Day press release for women in commercial real estate, the document argues that a pay gap continues.

Reviewing responses from 2,900 individuals representing a wide variety of specialties within commercial real estate, the Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Network study concludes that progress is being made but not enough.

In just five years, there is a major change of women comprising 36 percent of jobs in 2005 compared to 43 percent today. That’s a staggering increase in five years and during a major economic recession.

Men still report earning a greater portion of their overall compensation from various forms of variable compensation such as bonuses, stock options, etc. but both men and women are beginning to report that a higher percentage of their total compensation is drawn from base salary (58 percent in 2005 to 67 percent in 2010).

Men’s willingness to take higher risk in their base pay for larger financial rewards if they close the deal may reflect the same approach that women exhibit in stock trades. One can’t argue lower risk pay plans should pay the same base salary as the pay package with few guarantees.

In reading the CREW study results, it’s not clear where the pay discrimination exists. A more interesting subset of conclusions would compare women and men working in commercial real estate in Manhattan or Chicago, often in the same real estate firms. What are those results?

Our focus on wage gap issues is aimed at companies like Walmart, employers of massive numbers of American men and women.

Writing today for Huffington Post, Marlo Thomas says that the pay disparity at Walmart that is part of the current sex discrimination case was about 5 percent. The numbers about promoting women into management positions was much more significant, and Walmart has dramatically increases women in management positions as a result of the class action suit.

Thomas refuses to accept that 5 percent is insignificant — equal pay for the same position is equal pay, not 95% or almost equal pay.That argument seems reasonable. A 5 percent pay differential is hardly a rounding error.

Marlo Thomas also writes that today Senators Barbara Mikulski and Rosa L DeLauro will reintroduce the US Senate Paycheck Fairness Act, which would, among other things:

  • Require that employers defend any gender pay disparities by showing that the pay differences exist for legitimate, job-related reasons,
  • Remove obstacles that prevent discriminated upon employees from filing class action lawsuits, and
  • Ensure that the Department of Labor utilizes the full range of its investigatory tools to uncover pay discrimination.

‘Women and men everywhere should call their Congress representatives and urge them to support this bill,’ says Judy Lichtman, a senior adviser at the National Partnership for Women and Families. ‘That would be the most powerful way to celebrate Equal Pay Day.’