The US Pay Gap Isn’t Closing

Is equal pay for equal work more of a 22nd century thing?

Activists hold women's strike and rally in NYC for International Women's Day
Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Is equal pay for equal work more of a 22nd century thing?

According to U.S. News, the pay gap is still substantial and, while it may not be widening, it is not noticeably shrinking either. Women are still “earning 80 cents for every dollar paid to a man in the U.S.” according to a report released by the American Association of University Women.

The gap, which “is defined as the difference in men’s and women’s median earnings,” is even wider for minority women. Critics of the status quo believe that if a woman is doing equal work, she should receive equal pay.

The largest gap exists in the retail sales world, while the smallest is between registered nurses and elementary school teachers. Some other prominent pay gaps exist in the financial industry, with female “financial managers only [making] 65 percent of what men holding that title are paid.”

The range in pay gap size is also evident on a state by state basis. The smallest gap is in California, where women earn 89 percent of the pay of their male counterparts. However, that number drops by 20 percent in Louisiana, to 69 percent. The pay gaps in each state vary based on their particular laws regarding equal pay, but states like “Alabama and Mississippi don’t have such laws,” according to the AAUW — and their pay gaps are substantial as well, at 73 percent and 77 percent, respectively.

According to Time, most of the closing of the pay gap occurred between the 1980s and 1990s, but “between 2008 and 2017… it has only decreased by 2 percentage points.”

What will it take for the situation concerning the gender pay gap to change drastically in contemporary times? Many people remain unsure, but change may come at the city and state level, where some companies are actually prohibited from “asking prospective employees about their salary history,” which can prevent employers from further contributing to the pay gap. Additionally, there is a push to increase “transparency within companies, so employees can better leverage themselves in negotiations.”

Some female policymakers are growing tired of talking about a subject that has spanned most of their lifetimes, yet persist in the struggle for pay equity. The issue has seen a resurgence of interest in modern politics.

The gender pay gap has been a topic of contention amongst politicians for decades, but the stagnancy of the pay gap makes it a consistent issue. It will be interesting to see how politicians use the topic of equal pay to heighten their platforms in the midst of the upcoming 2018 midterm elections.