The Gender Pay Gap Is Improving, but There's Still Work to Do

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  • The average woman earns $0.83 for every $1 earned by a male counterpart.
  • Though that's an improvement compared to where things stood in the past, it's not something women should simply accept.

Women shouldn't hesitate to fight for equitable wages.

For decades, women have been earning less money than their male counterparts. That's forced women to suffer all sorts of consequences, from falling behind on building savings to having to drop out of the workforce when childcare costs eat up the bulk of their wages.

As of 2020, the average woman earns $0.83 for every $1 earned by a man in a similar employment capacity. That's a big improvement from 1960, when the average woman only earned $0.61 per $1 earned by a man.

But still, the fact that the gender pay gap still exists is downright unacceptable. And women shouldn't hesitate to fight it. 

Why the gender pay gap is narrowing

There are different reasons why the gap between what men and women earn isn't as substantial today as it was decades prior. For one thing, more women today are college-educated, and so they're in a stronger position to qualify for better jobs and command higher wages. 

Also, discrimination laws have been tightened up through the years, making it harder for employers to deny women jobs on the basis of gender alone. Plus, there's a shifting culture to consider. It used to be a strange thing for a woman to hold a job outside the home when she had a child to raise. Nowadays, it's extremely common. 

But despite these changes, the gender pay gap is still alive and well when it ought to be dead and buried. And until that happens, it's important for women to be their own advocates.

How to fight for equal pay

Knowing your worth as an employee is an integral part of combating pay inequality. To that end, spend some time online digging up salary data for your industry. If you see the average person in your field with your experience level earns $60,000 a year, and you're only being paid $50,000, that's a discrepancy worth investigating.

You also shouldn't hesitate to talk salary with your male colleagues -- even if your employer tells you not to. Your employer does not have the right to prohibit you from comparing salary notes with fellow employees. 

If it threatens termination for that, you may want to talk to an employment lawyer. But you absolutely have the right to know how your pay stacks up to that of your colleagues. And if you're able to point to a big difference between male and female wages, that's something you shouldn't hesitate to pursue (though you may want to ask an attorney how to go about that).

It may take years -- decades, even -- to reach a point where the gender pay gap is whittled down completely. The fact that progress has been made is a positive thing, but given that the gender pay gap shouldn't exist in the first place, that doesn't have to be good enough in your book. Instead, keep fighting for fair pay -- even if it means stepping outside your comfort zone, having tough conversations, and putting your negotiation skills to the test.

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