Equal Pay Day May Be Depressing, But Here Are 3 Things That Offer Hope
Yes, progress has been painfully slow. But there are signs it may finally get a boost.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Welcome to Equal Pay Day, or, the day the average American woman would have to work to in 2018 to match what a man earned in 2017.
Of course, there is no such thing as an average American woman. The pay gap is most commonly estimated at around 20 percent but it varies widely depending on location, age, race, and profession, as well as on who's doing the measuring. Equal Pay Day for Black women is August 20; for Latinas it's November 1.
At the current rate of change, women won't reach pay parity with men until 2119. This is so bad that even your daughters' daughters' daughters' will be cheated.
Still, there are reasons to think speedier progress may be on the horizon. Here are three reasons we're hopeful that the pay gap will be at least a little smaller the next time Equal Pay Day rolls around.
1. Women in STEM
Part of the pay gap is due to the fact that women tend to work in lower-paying fields than men. It's hard to tell how much of this is chicken and how much is egg, since historically, jobs start to pay less when women move into them and more when guys take them up. Male nurses, for example, get paid more than women nurses.
Computer science used to be considered a "soft" science, and much more suitable for women than, say, electrical engineering. But if we look at computer science today, there's at least one reason to celebrate: A study by the American Association of University Women found that one year after graduation, male and female computer science majors were being paid the same.
Unfortunately, there aren't nearly enough women in computer science. But there too, we're seeing a flickering of progress. A decade ago, 18 percent of the students who took the AP computer science exam were girls; in 2017, that number was 27 percent.
Meanwhile, an increasing number of colleges and universities are figuring out how to make computer science more appealing across the board. About half of Harvey Mudd's computer science, engineering, and physics graduates are women, compared with about 18 percent nationwide for computer science. In 2014, University of California-Berkeley adjusted the curriculum of its introductory computer science class to include more open-sourced materials and team-based projects, and changed the class's name to "The Beauty and Joy of Computing." That year, enrollment in the class was finally split evenly between the men and women.
No, #metoo is not primarily about how much women are paid. Neither is the record number of women suddenly running for public office. But it's part of an important trend of women finding their voices--individually and en masse--and refusing to allow their futures to be decided primarily by men.
When so many women can't even do their jobs without fearing for their safety and security, is it any wonder that they're less likely to get raises when they ask for them? When Susan Fowler wrote her post on Medium about how poorly she was treated at Uber, it wasn't just about being sexually harassed, or about fictitious performance reviews, or about being penalized for speaking up. It was about all of that. These issues are inextricably bound together, and progress on one front helps to empower all women, in all arenas.
3. Companies are starting to get it
In April 2016, Microsoft and Facebook both announced that they'd done a thorough accounting of their employees' pay, and found no pay gap. We don't know for sure how accurate that accounting was: Microsoft is the subject of a lawsuit alleging that it does have a pay gap, and Facebook has since admitted to a pay gap in the U.K. The point is that both companies realized, hey, this is something we need to pay attention to. We need to come up with some data and take a stand. That in itself is new.
Sometimes the hurdle is just in getting women in the door. After complaints of poor office behavior led to a leadership shakeup at Nike, the company's human resources chief, Monique Matheson, wrote in a memo that the company "has failed to gain traction" in hiring women and minorities, and implored the company to create "a culture of true inclusion."
If we can do that nationwide, we've got it made.