by Sharon Florentine

Gender pay gap shrinks, but there’s still a lot of work to do

News Analysis
Mar 29, 2019
CareersSalariesStaff Management

Computer programmers saw the greatest pay gap reduction, but look beyond that, and you see how inequality for women exists in different ways.

gender pay gap inequality
Credit: Getty Images

Equal Pay Day has come around again — Tuesday, April 2, is the day in 2019 through which U.S. white women had to work to earn what the average U.S. white man earned in 2018. Asian women’s equal pay day was March 5, 2019, black women’s Equal Pay Day isn’t until Aug. 22, Native women’s equal pay day is September 23, and Latinas Equal Pay Day is almost a full year later – Nov. 20, 2019.

Depending whom you ask, the gender wage gap is between 18 and 20 percent across all industries, though it is narrower in the technology sector. And a new report from Glassdoor shows the pay gap is shrinking, albeit slowly. The Glassdoor report shows the unadjusted pay gap between men and women in the U.S. is 21.4 percent, meaning women earn, on average, $0.79 for every $1 men earn. That’s a 2.7 percentage point shrink in the unadjusted pay gap from three years ago (March 2016), according to Glassdoor. However, when controlled for variables such as age, education, experience, occupation, industry, location, year, specific company and job title, the adjusted pay gap in the U.S. becomes 4.9 percent – a 0.5 percentage point shrink since 2016.

And while the largest adjusted pay gaps (where pay gaps between men and women are widest) are in media, retail, construction, repair and maintenance, and oil, gas, energy and utilities, those whose occupation is computer programmer saw the largest pay gap shrink – down 16.7 percentage points, the report shows.

The gap widens, though, as women gain experience, according to a Hired report. And a recent 2018 Women in Tech report from HackerRank shows that women in technology who are over 35 years old are 3.5 times more likely to be in junior roles than their male counterparts.

Large enterprise companies such as Salesforce, Intel and Adobe have made headlines for identifying and rectifying the pay gap within their workforces, and even smaller organizations such as Instructure and Hired are conducting pay equity reviews to make sure women and men are paid equally.

Even with heightened awareness and newsworthy action, though, a number of pervasive myths stubbornly remain about the gender pay gap, which Kristen Bellstrom debunks in a Fortune article, including the fact that a full 37 percent of men surveyed say the gap doesn’t exist.

How to address pay inequalities

What else can be done to address pay inequalities? States, including Oregon, Massachusetts and California, have made it illegal for hiring companies to ask for your salary history, which is a step in the right direction. Also, having a comprehensive compensation planning strategy can ensure companies actually pay equal wages for equal work. And transparent pay structures and having open conversations about how much certain skills and experience are worth can also help.

Strengthening equal pay laws so that women have the tools they need to fight back against pay discrimination, increasing the availability of child care, providing flexible work arrangements, providing paid leave, and having union protections are overall policies that will help, too, according to the National Women’s Law Center.

Employers, as well, can take action within their organizations, the Glassdoor report says.

Sharing salary information directly with candidates can be a powerful cultural differentiator in a tight labor market, which can also help close the pay gap. Although education and experience are becoming less of a factor influencing the gender pay gap, occupational and industry sorting remain significant causes. That suggests that employers should be consistently re-evaluating hiring pipelines to ensure that they are attracting, hiring, and retaining diverse talent pools, according to the Glassdoor report. Because occupational sorting is such an important driver of the pay gap, it’s important for employers to promote workplace policies that allow flexibility in work hours or paid family leave, to ensure both men and women can balance work and family responsibilities.

“Knowing the facts about the gender pay gap is critical to helping close the gap. Combining knowledge with leveraging valuable resources is the next step to ensuring equal pay for equal work everywhere,” said Annie Pearl, Glassdoor senior vice president and head of product and UX/design.

While we’re still making progress, there’s still a long way to go.