You've probably heard of the gender wage gap, which boils down to women making less money than men do for doing the exact same job. However, what you may not know is that this disparity impacts women in many ways you've probably never even considered. A new report from the American Association of University Women on the state of the pay gap found all kinds of sneaky ways that the wage gap is making life harder for women — and pointing out exactly why it's high time so many people stopped trying to pretend that it doesn't exist.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the report, let's talk about the AAUW's findings on the existence of the gender pay gap in 2016. Many like to say that the pay gap comes down to personal choices or can be explained away by controlling for different factors, like age or education level; however, that's not actually the way it works. The pay gap is calculated by subtracting the median earnings of men working full time by the median earnings of women working full time, and then dividing that total by the median earnings of men, which can be mathematically converted into a percentage. The latest national data is from 2014, which the AAUW analyzed in their report; this piece of analysis found a 21 percent pay gap between men and women, meaning that white, non-Hispanic women earn 79 percent of what white, non-Hispanic men do. The number drops even more dramatically for women of color, as well: According to the Center for American Progress, black women earn 64 percent of what white men do; Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women earn 65 percent; American Indian and Alaska Native women earn 59 percent, and Hispanic or Latina women earn just 54 percent.
The AAUW also directly addressed the myth of personal choice in the report. They cite an earlier study they conducted in 2012, saying that while it is true that some matters that impact the wage gap can be attributed to things like career fields and college majors, controlling for all of these lifestyle factors still leaves a seven percent wage gap between men and women one year after college graduation that cannot be explained. “People don’t believe that gender is still an issue. A lot of people think this is something of the past, that women seem to be doing well in education,” AAUW researcher Catherine Hill, told Bloomberg Business.
Now that we've covered the myths, let's get into the facts of the ways that the gender wage gap is impacting women unexpectedly. This list is certainly not a complete guide to understanding the gender pay gap, so make sure to refer back to AAUW to take a look at the full report; in the meantime, though, I'm willing to bet you didn't know that the wage gap is affecting women in these three ways.
1. Student Loan Debt Takes Longer For Women To Pay Off
Student loan debt is an issue that impacts our entire generation, yes, but the AAUW report found that the burden disproportionately impacts women. In fact, AAUW's analysis found that, on average, female college graduates in 2008 had paid back 33 percent of their student loan debt by 2012, while their male counterparts managed to pay back 44 percent of their debt in five years. This gap was also significantly wider for women of color, as black women had only paid an average of nine percent of their student loan debt back. For Hispanic women, this number was even lower: Just three percent.
2. The "Pink Tax"
The pink tax has been talked about numerous times on Bustle, but it's worth revisiting here since it's still a huge problem many don't even realize exists. Women are paying an average of $1,355 more every year for buying the exact same products as men, only we are being charged a premium because of our gender. Think of items like soap, toothpaste, deodorant, and shampoo, which are personal care products that all people need to use, but are often marketed by gender. Those that are marketed to women are often priced higher — an arbitrary price jump based solely on gender, thereby earning the title "the pink tax" — making it more expensive to be a woman. So, not only are you being paid less than men, but you're also being charged more for products and services. Talk about infuriating!
3. Gender-Segregated Career Fields
The AAUW report found that job segregation by gender is still a very prevalent phenomenon. 40 percent of working women in 2014 were working in traditionally "female" occupations, such as teaching, nursing, and social work; meanwhile, only five percent of men worked in these types of jobs, but were still paid higher when they did. As a whole, female-dominated occupations also pay less than those dominated by men, the AAUW found. This has been theoretically tied to the devaluing of the feminine, which basically means that we prefer anything to do with the masculine in our society.
The struggle is real, folks — and the data proves it.