VOL. 7 | NO. 9 | Saturday, February 22, 2014
Editorial: Nation Must Continue Closing Gender Pay Gap
Women today make 77 cents for every dollar men make in the U.S. economy, President Barack Obama said in his January State of the Union address.
Factoring in men and women performing the same job and the disparity is less but it is still a fact of life.
And it is hard to imagine truly shattering the glass ceiling in any kind of collective way without remedying this longstanding basic problem on the way to the glass ceiling.
Because running a corporation is such an individual endeavor with a combination of numerous decisions that would probably never be the same combination for any two CEOs, the challenge of women moving into the corner office in greater numbers is complex.
At that level, anyone’s decisions are going to be second-guessed and challenged on several fronts.
But the nature of those challenges seems different when the CEO is a woman instead of a man. And there is at least the perception that a woman at the helm of a corporation has fewer controversial calls at her disposal before the tide begins to turn and she is isolated. That’s an important consideration because it effectively forces women who make it through the glass ceiling to focus almost exclusively on the immediate business at hand instead of any extended campaign to change corporate culture.
An extended and focused effort to change that culture is exactly what is needed. PowerPoint presentations followed by employees signing forms acknowledging they saw them and understand the policies is little more than the company covering itself should someone slip up in a major way. And sensitivity training can’t stand in for the effect of more women finding their way into middle management and beyond who, through their numbers, have the ability to change culture beyond their own singular presence the higher they climb on the ladder.
For all of the reading aloud of gender policies and the official paperwork, a Pew Research Center survey at the end of 2013 found another gap. Women remain much more likely than men to believe men and women are not treated equally in the workplace, according to the survey that looks at the opinion across generations.
Women of the millennial generation may go further in the business world than women in their 20s and early 30s of previous generations, the study also found. But the survey also concluded that the “near” pay parity with men at that age isn’t guaranteed to continue.
“Recent cohorts of young women have fallen further behind their same-aged male counterparts as they have aged and dealt with the responsibilities of parenthood and family,” reads the report. Yet two-income families are a dominant feature of American society.
Breaking glass ceilings and making real progress on the gender pay disparity are challenges that seem more and more to begin well before men and women enter the workforce.