The Persistent Wage Gap: The Social Injustice Impacting Women and the Economy

Over the course of their careers, almost all women lose hundreds of thousands of dollars. According to the Center for American Progress, the average woman misses out on approximately $430,480 over the course of a 40-year career. In many cases, women are offered less pay than men for the same type of work. Lots of these companies are offering women as little as 4 percent and as much as 45 percent less than men for the same role. This, in many circumstances, is caused by gender and racial discrimination, workplace harassment, job segregation, and a lack of workplace policies that support family caregiving, which is still most often performed by women. Now, the wage gap doesn’t only affect women, but the world’s economy as a whole. What started as a 19th-century sex scandal has now become a worldwide social injustice.

The wage gap has been an ongoing issue for decades, yet it still exists regardless of industry and education level. The wage gap persists regardless of the industry. Women are paid less than men in healthcare and social assistance, manufacturing, retail trade, and educational services. Women are paid 73 cents for every dollar paid to men in healthcare and social assistance. They are paid 78 cents in manufacturing. In retail trade, they are paid 79 cents, and in educational services, 87 cents. The wage gap also exists regardless of education level. Women with a master’s degree who are working full time annually are paid 75 cents for every dollar paid to men who also have a master’s degree and are working full time annually. Also, among full-time, year-round workers, women with an associate’s degree are paid less than men with just a high school diploma, and women with a master’s degree are paid less than men with a bachelor’s degree (Pay Scale Infographics). In other words, the wage gap cannot be explained by choices.

Women’s earnings have been increasingly important to the economic stability of families in the United States. Women make up almost 48 percent of the total U.S. labor force. A table provided by the Institute for Women’s Policy shows the average annual income for women, their total hours worked, their total family earnings, and the poverty rate in five different types of households, with women classified according to their status. The graph showed self-supporting single women, working single mothers, working married women, and married working mothers who are all 18 or older. The graph showed that single women—who were never in a relationship—are limited, similarly to those who live without family members. In other words, these women are dependent on their own earnings. If all women finally achieved equal pay, the very high poverty rate for working single mothers would fall by nearly half, from 28.9 percent to 14.5 percent. Single working women are not the only ones affected. Married women and mothers also impact the huge gap in income.

The achievement of equal wages would lead to a significant increase in earnings for millions of families across the United States. Statistics provided from the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplements, 2014–2016, show that providing equal pay to women would have a dramatic impact on them and their families, especially their children. In the United States, around 43 million children live in families with a working mother. If the mothers in these families had the same income as their male counterparts, 25.8 million of those children would benefit from the increased earnings of their mothers. The number of children whose families would be brought out of poverty because of this would result in a huge outcome of 2.5 million, which is nearly half of all children living in poverty in these households currently, which is around 5.6 million. If women had the same income as men, the total number of children living in poverty would nearly be cut in half, dropping from 5.6 million to 3.1 million. Simply achieving equal wages would increase overall women’s salaries and decrease overall poverty.

Besides just increasing women’s earnings, increasing women’s participation in the labor force can also boost a country’s economy. If as many women worked in the labor force as men, the International Monetary Fund estimates that GDP in almost all of the countries would increase. For example, the GDP would increase by 5 percent in the U.S., 9 percent in Japan, 12 percent in the United Arab Emirates, and 27 percent in India. The IMF also found that adding more women into senior management roles or on corporate boards can directly boost a company’s net income and its ROA (return on assets) ratio. “Businesses have learned that they can draw upon diversity to strengthen their bottom line. In this way, diversity is a key ingredient to growing a strong and inclusive economy that is built to last,” said Miranda Brawn, director of legal and transaction management at Daiwa Capital Markets.

Paying working women the same and equal wages as their male counterparts would increase individual earnings for the woman alone but also family incomes and drastically cut poverty rates. In single-working mother families, poverty for both the woman, her child, and her entire family as a whole would be nearly cut in half. But statistics show that the current gender wage ratio is currently 80 percent, which is not very different from where it was in 2002, which was 77 percent (Proctor, Semega, and Kollar 2016). This shows that the U.S. has not been making an effort to close the wage gap. If the same approach was used in the last five years to close the wage gap, it will take more than four decades— lasting all the way until 2059—for women to reach equal wages. (Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 2016). The U.S. and the rest of the world need to strive to close the wage gap and achieve equal pay for both genders. The U.S. can work towards equal pay by making higher minimum wages, stronger collective bargaining, and better family-friendly policies, such as paid family leave and subsidized child care, medical leave, paid sick days, and fair scheduling. These are all simple rights that all men have access to. They would go a long way towards ensuring that working women are paid fairly and are better able to support their families. There are already a considerable amount of federal bills presented to Congress that, if passed, would address the issue of the wage gap and expedite the closing process.

  • https://iwpr.org/publications/impact-equal-pay-poverty-economy/
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The Persistent Wage Gap: The Social Injustice Impacting Women and the Economy. (2023, Mar 15). Retrieved May 23, 2024 , from
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