Salary gaps still plague women in business

Despite being awarded many college degrees, holding high-level positions, and being influential decision-makers, women still earn less than men in the workforce.

New female graduates still earn 17 percent less than their male peers across the board. Furthermore, only 14 percent of women hold executive officer positions at Fortune 500 companies, according to U.S. census findings. Many women are asking the question, “Why?”

Nearly 50 years after it became illegal in America to pay women less based on their sex, the average woman still makes less than her male counterparts. White women earn 77 cents on every dollar compared to a man. African-American women earn 68 percent of what their male peers make, while Latinas earn roughly 58 percent.

Ask some people and they will say that the numbers are deflated unfairly. There are hypotheses that women flock to lower-paying jobs more so than men despite similar educational backgrounds. For example, a female college grad may become a teacher while a male becomes a lawyer. Teachers typically earn significantly less than lawyers.

However, others argue that the salary gap is there regardless of the occupation. For example, 2007 Census Bureau numbers indicate that female truck drivers earned 76.5 percent of the weekly pay of their male counterparts for the same job, while male secretaries earned about 15 percent more than female secretaries. In some government and municipal occupations where salary is graded according to certain levels, men and women can make the same salary regardless of gender.

There are some expert economists who say that, conscious or not, gender discrimination does occur at work, with men faring better than women with respect to job placement and salary.

In addition to the salary gap issue, studies have shown there are some double standards between male and female workers that also tend to prevail.

• Networking may help men and harm women. Perhaps because of the fear of rejection, many women tend to be conservative when sending friend requests from business social networking sites. Women also tend to socialize with lower-paid professionals, simply because they are often part of that clique. Men seem to network more freely and out of their pay grade.

• Being a parent can hinder women but be an asset to men. According to research from Stamford University, female job applicants on contrived applications for jobs who showed no signs they were parents on a resume (i.e, mentioning participation in the PTA, etc.) were twice as likely to be called in for an interview as women who offered hints that they had kids. However, men who mentioned child-related activities were just as likely to get a call back than those who didn’t. Similar findings by the school indicated that job screeners ranked female applicants with kids as “less competent” and “less committed” than men with kids.

• Asking for a raise is seen as assertive in men and pushy in women. During a study by Carnegie Mellon University and Harvard Kennedy School, actors portraying employees asking for a raise were videotaped saying the same lines and asking for the same raises. Both male and female viewers (including bosses) felt the women came off as unlikable and aggressive compared to the men. Some surmise that asking for a raise and asserting oneself is out of character for a woman and can be off-putting. Experts advise women to gather all of their facts in support of a raise and suggest a pay range as opposed to a specific salary. This makes women seem competent but not pushy.

No one can pinpoint if the salary disparity will ever come to an end – even with legislative intervention. Female workers may still have to fight to realize the same benefits as men in the workplace.

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