Despite the many advances in women’s rights in the past few decades, women are still being paid less to do the same work as men, according to a study released by the American Association of University Women Wednesday.
“Among full-time workers one year after graduation, women were paid just 82 percent of that paid to men,” Director of Research at AAUW and co-author of the report Catherine Hill said in a Wednesday conference call .
A portion of this gap can be explained by differences in occupation, major and hours worked, Hill said, but one-third of the pay gap remains unexplained.
“In the apples to apples comparison, this pay gap shrinks from 18 percent to about 7 percent,” Hill said. “It shrinks, but it does not go away.”
This means that men and women doing equal work are not being paid equally, Hill said. The 7 percent gap that remains can likely be attributed to intentional and unintentional gender discrimination, she said.
The pay gap is particularly crippling for women trying to pay back student loans, Christianne Corbett , senior researcher for AAUW and co-author of the report, said on the conference call.
“Women are more likely than men to pay a larger part of the earnings to student loan debt, in large part because of the pay gap,” Corbett said.
Despite the fact that the Equal Pay Act of 1963 prohibits discrimination in compensation based on gender, the wage gap persists, according to the report .
Erin Long , co-chair of the Committee of Employment and Family Issues for the Penn State Commission for Women, said that women are often unaware that they are being paid unfair wages and companies are not being held accountable when women are not aware.
“The problem is that women are either not finding out about it or not bringing it to the attention of either the company or the human resources representatives,” Long said.
It is important for women to do research to find out what salary they should be receiving, Long said. By doing research online and speaking with human resources, women can find out what wage is fair, she said.
Madeline Chandler , a member of AAUW and president of Triota, an Academic Honors Society in Women’s Studies, said she agrees it is important for women to do research to ensure they are receiving fair salaries.
“A lot of people feel like it’s something that can’t change or that won’t ever change, but people need to realize that there is a lot of power in their voices,” Chandler (senior-media studies and women’s studies) said. “If enough women stand up and say that we want equal pay for equal work, it will make a difference.”
Long said she hopes the AAUW report could help to raise awareness of the pay gap issue, and potentially lead to a solution.
“The report could go a long way to help inform people in order to make new policies here at Penn State, and also at companies across the nation, and to ensure that this does not happen in the future,” she said.
Ultimately, Corbett said the wage gap would not be closed unless employers become more transparent about pay ranges and government officials push for stronger legislation.
“A problem as longstanding and widespread as the pay gap cannot be solved by the actions of individual women alone,” Corbett said. “Employers and government have the important roles to play.”