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Gender wage gap still a problem in America

October 12, 2012
The Inter-Mountain


On Aug. 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution became a law allowing women the right to vote. Every year, Aug. 26 is celebrates as Equality Day, but do women really have equality?

Recently, two letters to the Inter-Mountain were sent, both written by men, saying that yes, women do have equality. These letters claimed that the gender wage gap is "propaganda" produced by a political party.

However, there truly is a gender wage gap. The wage gap is compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau, which we should all agree is politically non-partisan. According to the 2010 U.S. Census figures, U.S. women earn 81 cents to U.S. men's dollar. This has actually steadily improved over the years, but is still not equal.

Theories abound for the causes of this wage gap. Women now account for 55 percent of college graduates, but their employment is 21 percent less than men and there is significant disparity in levels of responsibility and paychecks. Woman are underrepresented in decision-making roles in companies, and women make up only 16 percent of Congress (this figure is 22 percent in Pakistan!).

Why is this happening? Women spend twice as many hours per week as men doing household chores and child care. Many women have lower ambitions than men and decide to opt out of a career. Those that do succeed may opt out of having children.

In a Harvard Business Review study, the higher up a corporate ladder a woman climbs, the fewer children she has. The "best paid" women are childless. The reverse is true for men. And lastly, in a study by McKinsey and Co., 27 percent of women (vs. 7 percent of men) have felt discriminated against in their career.

In a recent article in Forbes magazine, professors at Wharton School and McGill University cite a phenomenon called "gender segregation" meaning women tending to work in different occupations and industries than men. Their study focuses on whether this was women's choice or subtle discrimination on the part of employers.

This can be seen in my field of medicine where women overwhelmingly choose primary care specialties over surgical specialties, which have much higher earnings.

Women tend to avoid jobs with longer hours. My own daughter, who has double Masters degrees (MBA and finance), opted out of a Wall Street job because she heard that these jobs entail an 80-hour work week. The researchers also found that women tend to not apply for jobs that are dominated by men, possibly because of lack of confidence.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act (a law named after a woman who was discriminated against by a tire factory and for years paid far less than her mail counterparts) attempts to help women right this wrong. This was the first bill that Obama signed into law in 2009.

Our representative, Shelley Moore Capito, voted against this bill. She also voted for the rollback of Violence Against Women Act, co-sponsored a bill to restrict access to birth control in 2011, and voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act in 2009. It is unbelievable to me that a woman could vote against her gender so many times.

Mary S. Boyd, MD


Representative to Vision 2020,

Equality in Sight



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