Women's Wages

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"April third has been declared by Feminist and labor groups as ‘Equal Pay Day' because it supposedly takes 93 calendar days for women's wages to catch up to men's." 3 Many people believe that sex discrimination is the main reason for the pay gap. However, several factors must be taken into consideration.

On average, women earn 74 cents for each dollar earned by the male population. This number is calculated by comparing median annual earnings of men and women. But several other differences between the sexes make up for the variation in pay. Work experience, education, background, skills, and other lifestyle choices account for much of the pay gap.

These factors cannot be ignored because they account for a large part of the discrepancy in wages between men and women. For example, when considering education, it is interesting to note that 14 percent of all master's degrees earned by women were in business management. In contrast, white men earn 44 percent of the degrees. Furthermore, only 14 percent of women in business actually aspire to be a CEO, compared to 45 percent of men. 3

Lifestyle choices also contribute to the difference in wages. Many women are willing to devote more of their time and attention to parenting rather than their professions. Consequently, women who choose to divide their time between work and their family life will undoubtedly earn less. In fact, women ages 27-33 who have no children actually earn 98 percent of men's wages according to the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. 1

As these examples suggest, discriminatory pay practices persist, leading to lower wages for women, even when they perform the same job as men. 2

It is difficult to decide what can be done to close the wage gap between men and women. However, several steps have been taken to ensure equal opportunities for both sexes. For example, the Pay Act of 1963 prohibits unequal pay for equal or substantially equal work. Also, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits wage discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, or national origin. 3

In reality, it would not be feasible to lower men's wages in order to compensate for the difference in pay. Obviously the male population would protest, families would be stripped of their wealth, and many homemakers would be forced to find jobs. However, raising women's wages so they are comparable to men's is certainly a possible solution. This is important because approximately 1/3 of all working mothers are the sole or primary source of income for their families. 5 While raising working women's wages may increase costs to businesses, it is the only solution if a company resolves to follow the regulations set forth to ensure equal pay for equal work, which by law, they are required to do. Most likely businesses will not be inclined to absorb these costs but rather pass them on to the consumer. However, in order to remain competitive they may find it wise to keep their customers happy or else they may lose them. To achieve this, they most likely will have to "eat the cost" of providing equal pay for women.

I believe that this change in policy would make more jobs available. Presumably, more women would aspire to senior executive positions and those previously dominated by males. The opportunity to make equal pay to that of their counterparts would draw more women into the workforce and consequently into upper management positions.

The issue of a "comparable wage" raises many questions concerning which types of work are actually comparable. It is difficult to classify different occupations which require the same training, skills, and education to perform the duties required. Consider sales. A person who sells a cell phone is not much different than one who sells cars. The position requires minimal educational background, but a large amount of experience. Both must be excellent in customer service and pushing sales. The promise of...
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