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Young girls in America are never sat down by their parents and told that when they grow up, they will be discriminated against in their workplace. They are never told that even if they follow their dreams and reach their goals, they will be paid less than their male co-workers. The gendered wage gap is very real and prevalent in America. The American workplace has always been a site of homosocial reproduction, a place where men created themselves as men (Kimmel 175). It has always been that in all-male workplaces, women’s roles were to lubricate the male-male interactions and do the emotional work (Kimmel 177). Society didn’t realize how far this gap would divide workers of different genders or the consequences that would arise. If there is any chance for the wage gap to come together, we must look at the extent of the wage gap, the reasons why there is wage gap, the consequences of it, and how to reduce it.
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The gendered wage gap in America has been consistent for centuries. Women, on average, earn only three-fourths of a man’s wage (SW College). Even as far back as biblical times, female workers only received thirty pieces of silver, while men were valued at fifty pieces or sixty percent of the men’s wage (Kimmel 1984). During the Civil War up until the turn of the twentieth century, a woman’s wage fluctuated between one-half and two-thirds of a man’s (Kimmel, 184). Many times, a woman and a man will be doing the same job, but because it is under a different job title, the man will be paid a higher wage.
On a website hosted by the organization AFLCO, they show by state how much a woman gets paid compared to a man. Washington, DC, pays eighty-six cents for every dollar a man makes, which is the most in this country (AFLCO). Wyoming has the worst pay at 63 cents for every dollar a man earns (AFLCO). Even college-educated women earn 29 percent less than college-educated men (Kimmel 185). Over the centuries, there have been countless issues in society that have changed. Why is the gendered wage gap staying the same?
To understand the extent of the wage gap, we must look at the issues causing it. Job segregation by sex is the single largest cause of the pay gap between genders (Kimmel 173). Another reason is labor force participation. Until the 1980s, most women withdrew from the labor force for a few years after childbirth (Rathje). Another reason is educational attainment. Twenty years ago, most college students were men, not women, so men ended up with even more opportunities (SW College). Presently, women account for the majority of university students and are entering fields previously dominated by men. Research indicates that much of the gender wage differences are a result of differences in education, work experience, occupational choice, and the glass ceiling (Kimmel 186).
The glass ceiling and sticky floor are terms referring to the combination that keeps women stuck at the bottom and unable to reach the top (Kimmel 186). It has been shown that the most important element in reinforcing the glass ceiling is the informal effort by men to restore or retain the all-male atmosphere of the corporate hierarchy (Kimmel 187). To justify gender discrimination in the workplace, employers have referred to a variety of qualities about women in order to exclude them: women didn’t really want to work, they didn’t need the money, and they had different aptitudes or interests (Kimmel 178).
Due to the need for males to maintain their corporate hierarchy, women and their families pay the consequences. One consequence is the amount of money they lose. The average woman will lose four hundred twenty-thousand dollars over her lifetime because of this gender gap (Kimmel 184). Not only does the woman lose this, but her family also suffers. Nationwide, working families lose two hundred and thirty billion dollars annually to the wage gap (SW College). At the beginning of the 1990s, it came to everyone’s attention that loss of income wasn’t the only consequence facing women. Over half of women experience sexual harassment sometime during their careers (Kimmel 191).
In the late 1970s, sexual harassment was first defined as sex discrimination, the chief way that men resist gender equality in the workplace (Kimmel 191). In 1991, Anita Hill made sexual harassment public. Hill was being sexually harassed by Clarence Thomas, her boss at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) (Kimmel 192). All of a sudden, the country had a name for what had been happening to women for decades. Society has come so far as to make sex-based jokes a form of sexual harassment, but they forgot to focus on the real cause, the gendered wage gap.
Now that we have looked at the extent of the gendered wage gap and why it exists, it is important to find ways to reduce it. One idea being introduced is called comparable worth. Comparable worth is a pay structure where jobs are rated according to a number of criteria, such as educational requirements, manual requirements, job stress, and risk of injury. Jobs with similar ratings will receive similar pay, regardless of gender (SW College). About two-thirds of employers currently use this system (Kimmel 196). Opponents claim that even though there will be no wage gap, there will be a decrease in pay for everyone. Also, it is impossible to determine the worth of a job (Kimmel 197).
Another idea being introduced is family-friendly workplace policies. These policies support onsite childcare, flexible working hours, and parental leave (Kimmel 197). This will help women who think childbearing will end their careers. Affirmative action was introduced as a solution in the early 1990s to close the gender and racial gaps. It was actually a very effective remedy until voters put an end to it. Opponents felt minorities would find it demeaning to accept positions strictly because they are a minority, not because of their qualifications (Kimmel 197). Some companies like Reebok International already institute their own policies designed to enable women to break through the glass ceiling in all three areas they experience it in: hiring, promotion, and retention (Kimmel 188).
No matter what men have done or are doing to stay at the top of the corporate ladder, they didn’t prepare for it to backfire. Men’s incomes have actually declined over the past quarter century (Kimmel 175). The idea of the male breadwinner who supports his family on his income alone, which has been the norm for years, now constitutes less than ten percent of all American families (Kimmel 175). These facts should open the eyes of employers; they aren’t just keeping women down but lowering the opportunities of their families, including their children. Once we figure out how to remedy all the gender problems in the workplace, we can start with the rest of society’s issues. American society is based on money; therefore, this is a very important issue to deal with. Most would agree that a combination of the persistence of traditional gender ideologies and changes in economic and social realities make today’s workplace an ideal arena for working out gender issues (Kimmel 177).
The Gender Gap in the American Society and of All American Families. (2023, Mar 06).
Retrieved March 30, 2023 , from
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