(Image courtesy of Karen Arnold)
Saint Joseph High School

Opinion: Gender bias is not the root cause of the wage gap

Gender bias has been the root cause of social and economic inequality between men and women for centuries. However, is gender inequality still the root cause of today’s wage gap despite efforts of closing the wage gap?

The Equal Pay Act of 1963, which imposed equality in wages between men and women, suggested that a fixed salary should be equal for the two genders. Even after this Act was passed, The Equality Act of 2010, also known as “The Act”, was passed to give the right to equal pay for equal work for men and women for the same occupations. 

Looking more in-depth at the cause of economic differences between the two genders, the choices made during college heavily influence the outcome of careers. Statistics according to Statista show that women are being enrolled in undergraduate schools at a much higher rate than men, and they have been for almost four decades.

Furthermore, Statista reports that in the past five years, the percentage of the women’s population that earned college degrees is higher than the percentage of men’s population who earned college degrees. However, given the facts, how are women still paid less than men? They aren’t.

To put it simply, women are not paid less, they earn less. In general, men gravitate toward college majors that lead to a higher salary, while women gravitate toward college majors that lead to a lower salary.

According to the US Department of Education, it reveals that women are the majority of the humanities and liberal studies field, which lead to lower-paying jobs. On the other hand, men are the majority of employees in the STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) field which leads to higher-paying jobs.

This employment fact causes a gap in the median salaries between men and women. Although the gap between the number of men and women in the STEM field is not substantial, according to College Factual, within the STEM fields, men earn a higher salary than women based on the type of STEM major they choose.

For example, men dominate fields such as Petroleum Engineering, Mining Engineering, and Nuclear Engineering. These STEM degrees lead to a large salary early in a man’s career. In the STEM field, however, the percentage of women who take these majors is low.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is reported that on average, men work 41 hours a week while women work 36.4 hours a week. This difference in work time heavily influences the outcome of salary, especially in hourly-paid jobs.

To say that gender bias is the cause of earnings inequality between men and women suggests that there is a general inequality in opportunities available to the two genders. However, the data proves that it is differences in choices made in college and hours worked that cause the pay gap between men and women.