There is no denying that there is a gender gap in the workplace. It’s a gap we hope we can close. Before we can do that, however, we have to be willing to take a good look at what that gap includes and do our best to determine why the gap exists in the first place.
So what exactly does the gender gap in the workplace look like?
Difference in Pay
According to the American Association of University Women, the median annual earnings, and earnings ratio for full-time workers in the United States for women, is 80% of what men are paid. This number can vary significantly depending on where you live.
In New York, for example, women make 89% of what men make. If you head west to Wyoming, however, women earn 64% of their male counterparts, a much wider gap than faced by women in other parts of the country.
It is also worth noting that these numbers also shift when you start to take race and ethnicity into account. White women, on average make 75% of what white men make, while Hispanic or Latina women are only paid 54% of what their white male colleagues earn.
It’s time to look a bit closer and find out what sorts of factors contribute to the gender pay gap.
Difference in Advancement
There are a few myths out there that purport to explain the gender wage gap and one of them is that women are simply not as interested in climbing the corporate ladder as their male coworkers.
According to a recent study, this is simply not the case. In truth, the number of women in the workplace who are interested in promotions is about the same as the number of men looking to move up.
Men and women negotiate for raises and promotions in almost equal numbers. The study mentioned found that 75% of women wanted to advance to the next tier in their career, compared to 78% of men
Despite the approximately equivalent desire to move up, women are promoted 15% less often than men. Across the one hundred and thirty-two companies that shared information for the study, over 80% of the C-Level employees were male.
But the disparity doesn’t begin at the C-Level. It starts all the way down the corporate ladder at the manager level. The research shows that for every 100 women who advance from an entry level position to a managerial role, 130 men are promoted.
As a result, the number of women in the internal hiring pool for director positions is smaller than that for men and the numbers shrink even more with each tier.
In addition to internal hiring discrepancies, companies are more likely to hire men from the outside for upper-level positions. Men are almost twice as likely to be hired into director positions from outside the company. By the time you get to the senior vice president level, men are three times more likely than women to be hired from the outside.
Women who negotiate for advancement or increased pay are penalized for it. They are 30% more likely to be labeled “too aggressive” or “intimidating” on their performance reviews than their male colleagues. Additionally, they are 67% more likely to receive negative feedback like this than their female coworkers who do not attempt to move up in the company.
When a woman does end up in a management or senior level position, she is scrutinized more closely, treated differently, and often criticized for traits that may be praised in her male counterparts.
Multiple peer-reviewed studies have found that women in positions of authority in the workplace face backlash for their success. The same behaviors that are characterized as "assertive" when performed by a man, are labeled "bossy" or "bitchy" when a woman does them.
Essentially, it's not only more difficult for women to climb the corporate ladder, but if they are actually able to start moving up, they experience pushback from both their peers and their subordinates.
Difference in Parenthood
Perhaps the most common explanation given for the gender gap in the workplace is that of parenting, well, motherhood specifically. When women become mothers, they are more likely to see their careers stall and even less likely to advance.
It has been argued that this is by choice and that's certainly part of it for some women, but it's not the whole story.
A study conducted at Cornell University found that resume's with a woman’s name that included a line about being involved in a parent-teacher organization were 50% less likely to get a call back than identical resume's without that line item. If the name on the resume was male, on the other hand, the resume's with the parent-teacher organization were slightly more likely to be contacted.
Another study discovered that mothers were offered $11,000 less for the same job than childless women and $13,000 less than fathers.
Women are penalized on the job market and in their careers for becoming mothers. On the flip side of the coin, men who have children are more likely to be paid more than their childless peers. So it's not just that becoming a parent hurts women's careers - it simultaneously helps men's careers.
On top of that, the difficulty with advancement as a mom isn’t only due to biases at work.
In a family with a mom, dad, and at least one child, the mom is far more likely to do the majority of the household chores. This is true whether mom stays at home, works part-time, or works full-time. It is even true if mom is the main breadwinner for the household.
The more time women spend on the minutiae of household chores and the emotional labor of running the household, the less time they have to stay late at work, accept last minute assignments, travel, and complete other tasks that can contribute to career advancement.
What We Can Do
The good news is that, by and large, companies are committed to gender equality in the workplace. This commitment can be seen in mission statements, corporate social responsibility programs, human resources policies, strategic planning initiatives, and more.
The bad news is that a lot of that commitment stays where it starts – on paper.
It’s not good enough to commit to closing the gender workplace gap in your mission statement. It has to become part of your core values and corporate culture.
That means the women and the men in your company have to take an active role in fixing the gender gap in your corporation. It’s a constant battle and can be difficult to know where to start.
The first step is to take a clear, honest look at your company. What is the male to female ratio of employees at each level within your corporation?
Find out where the bottleneck is in your corporate pipeline, then work to fix it. This can include more conscientious hiring practices and increased employee training for all levels.
Since becoming a parent is something that can hold women back in the workplace, you may want to examine your benefits offerings. Are there things you can do to make the package you offer more friendly to families and working mothers in particular?
After you make changes, you need to follow up. Hold your company accountable for acting in ways that align with your commitment to gender diversity.
"Women are as critical in the workplace as they are in every other facet of our lives. When business and industry are missing an appropriate mix of male and female employees and leadership, we don’t have the full advantage of great ideas, guidance, and energy needed to succeed. This will stop being an issue as soon as executives begin to affect policies that provide wage equity and career opportunities like those afforded to men. It almost seems absurd that we have to even be discussing such an obvious fact in 2017."
- Leo Ramirez, CEO of Encast
The gender gap in the workplace hurts all of us. When company leaders are held accountable for their commitment to gender diversity, both men and women employees are more likely to believe they have equal opportunities within the company. As a result, employee engagement increases across the board.
A diverse workplace is strengthened by multiple perspectives and increased employee engagement, which is good business at every level.