The Gender Wage Gap Gets Worse At Age 32 For Most Women, Proving Once Again That Ageism Is A Feminist Issue

Although the overall gender wage gap might be narrowing over time, that doesn't necessarily mean that as an individual woman you can expect your own wages to get more fair as your life progresses. Indeed, according to new research, it turns out that the gender wage gap widens at age 32 for most women. So basically, if you're in your 20, enjoy the wage gap you have right now because it's probably going to get worse. Remember that whole thing where ageism is a feminist issue? Well... ageism is a feminist issue. Just in case you needed another reminder.

A new study of 165,000 U.S. workers found that women in their 30s typically find themselves making a much smaller share of the salaries of their male colleagues by the end of the decade than than they were making at the beginning of it. At age 31, women today earn on average about 90 percent as much as men in the same age group; by age 40, however, they make only 82 percent. So what's going on? In a word: Promotions.

The thing is that this age range, around 32 to 40, is the time when people begin moving into managerial roles. Except, as it turns out, women are often passed over for those promotions — which means that it ends up taking much longer for them to move into higher level positions, while men tend to move up the ladder much faster.


Thus if two equally qualified people, one male and one female, begin working at a company at the same time, doing roughly the same job, both doing it well, and maybe even being paid about the same, the male employee will still probably wind up making a lot more money by the time they reach the end of their careers because he was promoted sooner and faster. And thus, the wage gap perpetuates itself.

This is also one of the many reasons the wage gap isn't just about comparing people in identical positions, but I digress.

The point is that women are making less in relation to men over the course of their careers not because women have kids, or don't have confidence, or choose lower paying fields. Women make less over the course of our lives because we are passed over for career advancement opportunities due to systemic sexism.


The gender wage gap is driven by the Manager Divide,” a press release from the researchers explained. The Manager Divide, they explain, is "a growing underrepresentation of women compared to men in manager positions from age 32 onwards, and a widening of the gender wage gap for large U.S. employers."

Cutting this gap would decrease the gender wage gap by one third, researchers say.

"Every CEO should be looking at gender equity,” said John Schwarz, Founder and CEO of Visier, which conducted the study. "It turns out that the gender inequity is not just a compensation issue, it is a problem of unequal participation of women in the higher paying managerial jobs.”

In other words, companies need to start promoting women if they ever want their wage gaps to narrow.

In the mean time, though, it's not enough for us to hope that the wage gap will just get better over the course of our lives. Because even though the wag gap is slowly improving on average, that doesn't automatically mean that women who are already in the workforce are going to see improvements for themselves; and indeed, while we're waiting for things to catch up, we still can — and should — advocate for ourselves.

So basically, don't stop asking for a promotion. You probably deserve one.

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