“In 2019, women earn 79 cents for every dollar earned by men.” The quoted statistics data published by Payscale in the State of the Gender Pay Gap 2019 Report points out the current situation of unequal pay between men and women in the workplace around the world. In fact, most countries have already enacted equal pay laws. For example, the EU also grants citizens the right to equal pay and allows workers to bring suits in civil courts or arbitration courts in case of compensation discrimination. So, what causes gender pay inequality?
It is commonly recognized that higher education can help reduce gender inequality. The improvement of women’s education levels will certainly contribute to their income level and professional opportunities. However, it remains to be proved whether higher education can improve the rate of return on education and reduce the income gender gap. For example, gender equality has been advocated in the United States for many years. Americans have been seeking to close the treatment gap between men and women in important areas such as business and politics. However, according to the U.S. Department of Education, for men and women who are all top college graduates, the income level for men after enrolling in the colleges for ten years is still generally much higher than women’s. In 2018, BusinessStudent.com had a study showing that in some elite colleges, including Princeton University and Carnegie Mellon University, men earn at least 30% more than women.
The pay gender gap can be partly explained by the difference in major and professional choices between men and women. According to Korn Ferry, a global organizational consulting firm, in 2013, almost half of the public schools in the United Kingdom had zero female enrollment in A-level physics courses. In workplace, less than three-tenths of the world’s scientific researchers are women, while the pay gap between women working in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) field and women working in non-STEM fields has reached 33%, and STEM professional jobs will increase by 17% in the future. Many education systems still instruct boys and girls to follow “traditional” gender-based major decisions, resulting in fewer women taking STEM courses in secondary, university or graduate education. The low participation rate of women in high-paying technical positions makes the pay gap increasingly apparent. In recent years, the traditional business model in various fields have weakened, industry giants have turned to technology-driven, and salaries of senior technical positions have continued to soar, all of which further strengthening the salary advantage of high-income men in related fields.
Moreover, research data from China’s BOSS Zhipin Institute indicates that the gender pay gap among newbies to the workplace is the smallest, while the gender pay gap with less than 3 years of work experience is about 10%. As the number of working years increases, the pay gap gradually widens. By five years or more, when women face a variety of factors such as marriage and childcare, the difficulty of promotion in the workplace has suddenly increased. The pay rate of return for the length of tenure is significantly lower than that of men, and this differentiation will further accelerate with age. Not only that, affected by gender stereotypes, men sometimes have biased evaluations of female leaders. Considering the potential negative effects that female leaders might bring to male employees actually constitutes the additional cost of women’s promotion.
In order to challenge the status quo of gender inequality in the workplace as well as the gender pay gap, many large multinational companies have started “women programs”, programs that are designed to cultivate female professionals; this reflects companies’ confidence in women entering the leadership and senior management team. This means that women need to undertake projects involving corporate strategy, business development, and finance. In other words, women have to take on challenging roles, such as helping an underperforming department to turn to good results, and women must gain such experience if they hope to be no longer frustrated by the “glass ceiling.”
Overall, in the war to eliminate the gender pay gap, female individuals need to break the influence of gender stereotypes and correctly evaluate their professional value. Employers should also fully realize that high-capacity women can improve the performance of the organization and that diversified culture within the company can play an important role. The society should fully affirm the tremendous value created by women’s childcaring, breastfeeding and housework, further strengthen government guarantees, and provide women with equal employment rights. Although the gender pay gap is complex, the outcome for promoting more women is promising: companies will become more creative, more effective, and more profitable; society will be more equitable, and the global economy will become healthier.
By Xue Feng