Gender Pay Gap: Why the Problem Persists

February 22, 2016 by  
Filed under Careers, Money & Careers

“First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one.”

That’s the way the fictional character Will McAvoy put it in the HBO television series The Newsroom.

It’s not a new idea. Many others have said essentially the same thing. It lies at the heart of a variety of 12-step addiction programs. And perhaps this is part of the reason that pay inequity has been such a persistent problem in the United States.

RELATED: In the News: White House Unveils New Efforts on Pay Equity

According to a survey conducted by the Harris Poll for the employment website Glassdoor, 70 percent of U.S. employees believe that men and women are paid equally at their company. The survey, conducted in October 2015 and released this month, indicates that more women see inequities in pay than men do. Sixty percent of women believed that men and women were paid equally at their company, while 78 percent of men did.

The survey also found that 93 percent of Americans support the idea that men and women should be paid equally for similar work and experience levels.

This stands in stark contrast with what pay equity studies have shown. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research reported in September 2015 on a study done in 2014:

The ratio of women’s and men’s median annual earnings was 78.6 percent for full-time/year-round workers in 2014. This means the gender wage gap for full-time/year-round workers is 21.4 percent. Women’s median annual earnings in 2014 were $39,621 compared with $50,383 for men. Neither women’s nor men’s earnings significantly improved compared to 2013. If the pace of change in the annual earnings ratio continues at the same rate as it has since 1960, it will take another 45 years, until 2059, for men and women to reach parity.

A more recent study, published this month in Science magazine, says that female sellers on eBay receive fewer bids and lower prices than male sellers of the same items.

RELATED: Video Pick: For Equal Pay Day, Lilly Ledbetter

In January, the White House proposed a new federal rule that would require companies with more than 100 employees to report salary data broken down by gender, race, and ethnicity. The collection of data would certainly shed light on the issue of pay equity, but it is surprising that this kind of data had not been collected in the past.

Celebrities have brought some attention to the issue. When the actress Patricia Arquette won her Academy Award in 2015, she used her acceptance speech to say, “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.” And Jennifer Lawrence, the highest paid actress in Hollywood, according to Forbes magazine, asked in an October 2015 essay for Lena Dunham’s newsletter, Lenny, why she was paid less than her male co-stars.

But meaningful change will not come about until more people recognize that women are often paid less than men.



(VIDEO) The Wednesday Five: Spring Dresses, Ashley Judd’s Epic MediaBusting, and Inspiration from Lilly Ledbetter

Photo: Judy Van der Velden (Judy ** on flickr)

This week, blogs explored gazillions of dresses, interviewed a fair-pay heroine, and  re-introduced Beat Generation goddess Diane di Prima.

  • Spring has sprung, and to some of us that means DRESSES. Check out this slideshow from New York magazine, with “130 spring frocks, from florals to maxi dresses.” At,   muse on the classic wrap dress — “It’s made of a soft, supple jersey fabric that does not wrinkle so doesn’t need to be ironed.  It’s lightweight, comfortable and will flatter most figures!”—and suggest checking out Karina Dresses, whose buyers and designers “specialize in simple yet comfortable dresses that are made for the over 40 body type with just enough plunge and yet a little more coverage than other wrap dresses we have seen.  (They even use models we can relate to… not teenagers!)” Click over for a video and much more.
  • Yesterday was Equal Pay Day, perfect timing for this week’s The Feministing Five  interview with the remarkable Lilly Ledbetter, of the landmark equal-access-to-justice law that bears her name.  Her case, Feministing’s Anna reminds us, is “an important reminder that it’s easy for those without the best interests of everyday men and women in mind to reverse equal pay laws and make it even harder to reach justice. By refusing to acknowledge and take action against discriminatory pay, employers and politicians continue to relegate women to second-class citizens in this country.”  The interview itself is full of goodies, including that Eleanor Roosevelt is one of Ledbetter’s heroines: “That lady was way ahead of her time. . . . she took a lot of criticism and a lot of flak, but stood her ground and made a lot of headway. You know we women haven’t even been voting for 100 years yet.”  Ledbetter also praises companies that “are beginning to treat women fairly” and updates us about the newest version of the the Paycheck Fairness Act, which will be re-introduced in the Senate soon.
  • We hope you’ve already been enjoying the amount of energy sparked by Ashley Judd’s landmark essay in last week’s The Daily Beast (we did link to it in “In the News”).  GiaVanne, who spends most of her time “indulging my inner Diva” at Giavanne’s Gems, took time out to exult about it. “In an essay published Monday, April 9th on, Ashley Judd delivered the equivalent of a super-sized “Bitch Slap” to the media in response to the gazillion negative comments made last month regarding her appearance. The Ashley media fest began because her face ‘looked puffy,’ after taking medication which included steroids to fight off a sinus infection.” Click over for more, an excerpt from the piece, including “Our voices, our personhood, our potential, and our accomplishments are regularly minimized and muted.” We couldn’t agree more.

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  • When you’re moving house, like one of WVFC’s editors, EVERY possession comes under suspicion. So Geri, the founder and editor of, is taking the opportunity to re-evaluate  “Kitchen appliances that I’ve used twice, such as a hot sandwich maker by Salton. I do have one of the original Cuisinart food processors from the seventies, and although it’s the size of a small child, I may continue to save it.  My great great great grandchild can take it to The Antiques Roadshow when it broadcasts from Mars.” Also going in the recycler: ‘Ticket stubs from plays I don’t remember, receipts from items I no longer possess, take-out menus from restaurants that went out of business decades ago, letters of praise from former bosses . . .” But other items can’t be relinquished, “such as select pictures of my children over the years that remind me how precious life is and how fast it flies; handmade cards from my kids that make me smile; my high school diploma, just because; my dad’s cufflinks that remind me of him looking dapper in his dress shirts; letters I typed to my youngest sister when she was doing her doctoral work in Buenos Aires (I don’t have the faintest idea why I have them) because they show me that the way I thought about her 40 years ago is much like I think of her  today.” How often do you assess your stuff?
  • Women’s Enews gives us the heads-up on Melanie LaRosa’s new film (video below), The Poetry Deal: A Film With Diane di Prima. Explaining why she had to go rogue in her documentary techniques, LaRosa cites her subject’s era for guidance: “The Beat writers’ style and choice of subject got them banned and rejected by major publishers. They responded by creating their own venues and presses,” she writes. “In 1961, di Prima started the journal “The Floating Bear,” which she ran with Amiri Baraka (then LeRoi Jones) for many years. It forged ties among writers around the nation and world. She also began poetry presses that published her own work and that of Audre Lorde, Barbara Guest, David Henderson and others.” We can’t wait to see the film, and maybe feature it some Poetry Sunday.

The Poetry Deal – Trailer from melanie larosa on Vimeo.

The Wednesday Five: News Junkies for Truth, Design Secrets and the Paycheck Fairness Act as National Security

May 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Newsmakers

Photo by Nate Mandos (Mirrorcle World)

This week in blogland, feminist Robin Morgan on the recent “sex scandals,” glimpses of award-winning fabrics being born, and why the Paycheck Fairness Act is the ultimate example of family values.


  • We’ve all felt slapped by the news lately, with more powerful-men-behaving-badly stories than usual. It’s time, we guess, for the premier Feminist News Junkie, eminence grise et belle Robin Morgan. She slices through what’s most creepy about the recent stories about Arnold S., criminal cases involving New York City cops and the head of the International Monetary Fund, and even Osama bin Laden’s porn stash. Raising questions about the meaning of consent in the Schwarzenegger and John Ensign cases, Morgan then inoculates us: “Inappropriate.  Consensual. She came onto him. Womanizing.  No sense of humor. Rumors and allegations. Conspiracy to frame him. Phrases we all, men as well as women, by now ought to recognize immediately, which would save us from repeatedly falling over platitudes with an air of great discovery.”
  • Women in Uganda are taking the future of their country into their hands with a “Walk to Work” campaign, writes Beatrice Lamwaka at Ms. Musings. Earlier this month, they marched through Kampala demanding change, carrying placards “with demands such as ‘For a country without bread, bullets cannot be food,’ ‘Stop shooting our babies,’ ‘Women of Uganda want peace,’ ‘Fuel prices must go down’ and ‘Respect women’s bodies during arrests.’ ” We’d like to add one more demand, Listen to those women, because we’ve got their backs.
  • Lara Hinz, director of programs at the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER), guest blogs at Your Wo(Man) in Washington. She notes what we all know about caregivers: it often interferes with the financial planning we know we need to do. “For most women, there is little room for error, and being financially unprepared for the last nearly third of their lives will have consequences. Women need to know what their risks are and make moderating those risks a priority throughout their lives. So while caring for others, take some time to care for yourself — it’s well worth it, and you deserve it!”
  • Along the same lines, Women Drivers makes a new case for the Paycheck Fairness Act as what’s needed for the economy. “Maybe this time the act will be correctly cast as a family economic stability act, not an entitlement for women. As though we all need a third shift: fighting for the right to get what we earned in the first shift.” After all, she notes, “Women carried households through the recession.”
  • Ever wonder how compelling fabrics and homes are dreamt up? Wouldn’t it be cool to go behind the scenes in a top design studio? WVFC’s own Stacey Bewkes did, got her wish, and shared it at her site Quintessence. Click over for highlights of her visit to Kravet Fabrics, including lush rugs, clean linens and some semi-secret designs you’ll see next at Disney World.

Video Pick: For Equal Pay Day, Lilly Ledbetter

Today, April 12, is Equal Pay Day in the United States — a way to address the fact that U.S. women still make 77 cents for each dollar that men earn. We can’t make it to the flash mob on Capitol Hill or join the women from 9to5 and AAUW lobbying for the long-stalled Paycheck Fairness Act. But we can bring you Lilly Ledbetter, from an Equal Pay Day two years ago, talking about how her fight against Goodyear Tire Co. taught her that we still need to fight.  Have you called your Senator yet?

The Wednesday Five: The Failure of Fairness, Elves on Broadway, Concerns About Retirement Age and The Twinkie Diet

November 24, 2010 by  
Filed under World

This week from the blogosphere: a look at the new “Twinkie diet,” some sobering numbers about the pay gap and Social Security, a blogger’s stardust memories, and a glowing review from Broadway & Me of a perhaps-unlikely Hollywood-to-stage story.

  • We first heard about the failure of the Senate to tackle the Paycheck Fairness Act from Liz O’Donnell’s Hello Ladies, which followed up soon after with some solid facts in So the Wage Gap Continues. Noting that over a lifetime, that gap costs college-educated women $1.2 million, and $2 million for a professional school graduate, O’Donnell says that to take “the economic security – of women – and their families and turn it into a partisan issue” is “shameful…absolutely shameful.”
  • At her popular The Blog That Ate Manhattan, Dr. Margaret Polaneczky comments on reports of an apparently successful diet focusing mostly on Hostess Twinkies. “As a lifelong dieter forever looking for the ultimate weight loss tool, a new diet is always appealing [and] I can see distinct advantages in a weight loss program that includes previously forbidden foods and which is successful, at least in the short term,” she generously concedes–then rolls out more reasonable guidelines for long-term health.
  • Our Diane Vacca isn’t the only one concerned about recent proposals by some budget hawks to raise the age at which we can collect Social Security. In part of As Time Goes By’s Gray Matters series, Saul Friedman looks at some of the raw data. “The higher the retirement age, the shorter the lives of retirees. That, of course, is one way of saving money,” Friedman notes acidly. “Widows and widowers don’t cost taxpayers and Social Security as much as a retiree who lives a full life and draws a full benefit.”
  • Wise Web Woman, inspired by a column about early, fruitless romances of Princess Margaret, takes a moment to remember and describe some long-past stories of her own.”These long lost loves never grow old or bald or have prostate problems or bad breath,” she notes. Ah, romance.
  • It’s early in the holiday season, but Jan at Broadway & Me was still charmed by the new Broadway version of “Elf.” Her review includes an elegant summation of why:  “David Rockwell’s sets intentionally echo Christmas pop-up books, Gregg Barnes’ costumes are seasonably jolly and the music by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin, the duo behind the stage version of The Wedding Singer, is so Christmasy that people in the audience started to sing along as though they already knew the songs. ” If you’re intrigued by Jan’s full review and the clip below, you might want to consider a holiday ticket splurge.

Newsflash: Paycheck Fairness Act Blocked Until … When?

November 19, 2010 by  
Filed under Politics, The Economy

This week saw the failure of many hopes  that the Paycheck Fairness Act, passed by the House last year, would pass the Senate in the lame-duck session and become the law of the land. Instead, even debate on the bill was blocked when only 58 Senators voted to allow debate to proceed without a filibuster. (Yes, the maneuver that one journalist calls the “Tarantino,” because “it kills bills.”)  Below, watch as advocates for fair pay meet at the White House to discuss next steps.

“The purpose of the meeting was to discuss today’s Senate vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Administration’s ongoing efforts to promote equality and economic security for American women and their families,” presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett wrote in an email statement sent immediately afterward. She called it “inspiring” to meet with “women who have dedicated their careers to the fight for equal rights for women, including Lilly Ledbetter, who became a relentless advocate for equal pay after fighting her own battle against discrimination.” In the video below, President Obama speaks informally with the group, which included Jarrett; Melody Barnes, the Director of the Domestic Policy Council;  Tina Tchen, Director of the Office of Public Engagement and Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls. We’ll keep you posted on recommendations that come out of these meetings, and possible next steps for those who want to take more action.

The Wednesday Five: That Sexist Facebook Movie, Washington Worries, and Going Under the Hood (VIDEO)

October 6, 2010 by  
Filed under Tech, World

This week’s roundup of blogosphere goodies includes a smashing video from auto mechanic Ann Farmer, and a discussion of why women in tech are justifiably outraged at their erasure from blockbuster flick The Social Network.

  • At AOL’s The, Jessica Wakeman explains Why Washington, D.C.  Won’t Be Getting A National Women’s History Museum, despite near-universal support for the project, including $1 million from Meryl Streep.
  • Speaking of Washington, recess arrived without a Senate vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act. Even more reason to read Cassandra Gaddo’s passionate defense of the act’s importance to our families, in Today’s Chicago Woman.
  • Nadine Brunk’s An American Midwife in Haiti, is a good way to mark National Midwifery Week, and to remind ourselves that the Haiti “crisis” is far from over. Brunk, a Virginia nurse-midwife, writes about the organization she helped found there: “In French, the word ‘midwife’ translates as ‘sage femme,’ which literally means ‘wise woman.’ Midwives For Haiti is humbled to be grooming wise women in the most dangerous place in the Western Hemisphere to have a baby.”
  • The Social Network, aka “the Facebook movie,” has dazzled critics coast to coast. But we knew the flick had a gender problem once we heard from Roger Ebert: “A subtext the movie never comments on is the omnipresence of attractive Asian women.” Jos at Feministing breaks down the film’s racial and sexist stereotypes, taking some small comfort in the two smart women that bookend the film.  “In a film about men who are computer geniuses but clueless about human interaction both these women display emotional intelligence.”
  • As it gets colder, is your car engine giving you trouble? Do you get tired of calling male mechanics who’ll rook you? It may be time to deal with it yourself — or at least to delight in Ann Farmer’s “Under the Hood” video, courtesy of our friends at On The Issues magazine.

The Wednesday Five: Having Ines Sainz’ Back, Black Women Rule Fashion Week, and Hold Off On That $900 Tub of Skin Cream

September 22, 2010 by  
Filed under World

Our latest blog roundup includes Fashion Week news from Nia Online, calling out the media on sexism in the locker room, and a gimlet-eyed look at on those “revolutionary” anti-aging skin products.

  • Nia Online’s Girl! Get Me Started notes  a happy milestone in the fashion world: “As New York Fashion Week presented designers’ visions of Spring 2011, black women were a big part of the conversation.” Highlighting designers Lois Smalls, Alice Samuels and Korto Momolu, she describes their designs in language nearly as vivid as the photos: “Trends seen included minimalism – lots of austere creations in white and taupe; bursts of bold colors like jade, cobalt blue, hot pink, ochre yellow and burnt orange; the ’70s influence (high waisted pants, loose sleeved tops and dresses, belted shirt dresses…” Click on the link for more, including some stunning designs.
  • Helene Atwan, director of Beacon Press, writes at Guernica about some sane responses to recent religious hysteria:  “While one man and his small group of followers in Gainesville, Florida are talking about burning copies of the Quran on 9/11, it’s been thrilling to see America’s secular and religious communities reacting in solidarity. Religious leaders, including Peter Morales, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, are calling on their communities to read the Quran,” and the Massachusetts Bible Society has offered to provide two Qurans for any that are burned.  Information is power,  Atwan adds:  “For those who would like to take the opportunity to read at least some passages from the Quran, you’ll find some excerpts” on a few linked sites.
  • Ruth Martin at Moms Rising is deeply concerned about the Paycheck Fairness Act, which has passed the House but still needs to clear the Senate: “We need to move this bill forward before the Senators go home in two weeks,” she writes. In  “Pass the Paycheck Fairness Act in 60 Seconds,” Martin  provides a useful set of links and talking points for our calls to Washington. We might tell them, for example, that “our Senators can take comfort voting for the Paycheck Fairness Act knowing that in a nationwide poll of registered voters, 84% said they support a new law that would provide women more tools to get fair pay in the workplace.”
  • Ever wondered about those $900-an-ounce wrinkle creams you read about? Ronni Bennett decided to put some to the test, and tells us at Time Goes By: “I bought a small bottle of one of the most popular and well-known anti-aging skin creams. I wanted to see for myself if it softens the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, as the hype maintains, and if my skin would appear ‘significantly firmer after just five days.’ Five days later, my face was no firmer, but it and my neck were as splotchy and red as I might look if I’d been a heavy drinker for many years. I gave up the experiment, tossed the bottle of cream and three days later my face was clear again…. It’s amazing what people will endure in the name of false youth. A Google search for ‘anti-aging’ returns more than 17 million results.” Bennett then puts the knife to some of the most popular claims, most long-disproven, for products from human growth hormone to Resveratrol to our favorite (not!) bioidentical hormones.

Fairness deferred is now in the Senate’s hands.

January 12, 2009 by  
Filed under Newsmakers, Politics, The Economy

by Faith Childs

On Friday, the House of Representatives passed two bills of importance to women. The Paycheck Fairness Act requires employers to pay equal wages to men and women who perform the same job unless there is a rational reason for the pay disparity. Also passed was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which overturns the 2007 Supreme Court decision Lilly Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (550 U.S. 618). In the year since that decision, lower courts around the country have been busy deepening its effect, turning away suits charging discrimination based on sex, race and disability.


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