The battle against discrimination in employment is fought on many fronts. Discrimination is an ugly reality in the employment world. People are routinely excluded from jobs, promotions and fair pay. They are subjected to hostile work environments and denied benefits guaranteed by California and federal laws. One of the oldest forms of discrimination is still a persistent problem: gender discrimination.
Despite years of attention, research and programs designed to ensure that women have equal rights in the workplace, the wage gap persists. Women make around 80 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts. The wage gap represents more than simple unfairness. It is a national embarrassment and makes our society worse in countless ways. Recent research has helped to explain one of the contributing factors to the wage gap and may help us address the problem on a national scale.
Cornell University researchers analyzed the impact of gender on a number of occupations and industries. The study found that, when women enter a field in larger numbers, the pay for that field goes down. It was not a question of increased competition, either. When men entered a field once dominated by females, pay in that field went up. Gender bias works on an individual, as well as a collective scale. The same quality and quantity of work produced by a female is valued less by many employers than it would be if produced by a male.
The study made an effort to determine exactly how much of the pay gap is attributable various causes. It found that 51 percent of the gap is based on the different types of jobs women and men do. It attributed 38 percent of the gap to “pure discrimination.” While the vast majority of the gap is due to one form of bias or another, only some forms involve violations of state and federal law. Ending discrimination will require the pursuit of legal remedies, but it will also require careful attention to the ways gender bias creeps into employment situations.
Source: The New York Times, “As Women Take Over a Male-Dominated Field, the Pay Drops,” by Claire Cain Miller, 18 March 2016