5 Debates On Closing The Gender Wage Gap That You’ve Heard — And Can Settle RN

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When it comes to attaining equal pay for equal work, the fight is far from over. And unfortunately, spreading public awareness about pay inequality is only part of the battle. As debate about how to close the gender wage gap bears on, it has grown clear that there are many different ideas and misconceptions about how best to end gender-based pay inequality.

For years, it fell on women to prove to lawmakers — and the public — that they weren't being paid as much as their male counterparts. Despite data indicating that a drastic, relatively consistent wage gap has persisted across multiple industries, the discussion historically focused on whether or not those figures were unfairly skewed. While the argument about whether the pay gap is real or not appears to have taken a bit of a back seat (it still simmers in some conservative corners of political discourse), more recently, the conversation has centered around the best way to close that gap.

Often, this debate about ending gender-based pay disparity falls along party lines. Typically, conservatives err on the side of, say, protecting companies from undue lawsuits. In turn, Democrats tend to promote policies that enable workers to empower themselves through initiatives like salary-sharing and holding management accountable for potential gender discrimination. That said, there's a lot to unpack when it comes to tackling the the gender pay gap, and especially when it comes to understanding popularly proposed solutions.

Hire More Women

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No one has benefited more from our thriving economy than women, who have filled 58 percent of the new jobs created in the last year,” Trump said during his 2019 State of the Union Address.

That may be true, but available information indicates that the figure is a bit more complex than that, according to the Center for American Progress. An analysis of that figure reveals that women made up the bulk of new hires last year, amounting to 1.5 million part-time and full-time jobs. The part-time jobs, however, actually widened the gender wage gap, according to the Center for American Progress.

Gender Discrimination Is Already Illegal

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Last week, the Paycheck Fairness Act passed in the House. Per Vox, the bill aims to close loopholes left in place by the 1963 Equal Pay Act. But some Republicans have argued that the legislation is superfluous, according to CNBC, because gender discrimination is already illegal.

That may be true, but data indicates that gender-based pay inequality persists, regardless. Yahoo! Finance reports that, in 2019, women earn just 79 cents for every $1 that men earn. Although gender discrimination is against the law, the persistent wage gap suggests that the 1963 piece of legislation is not enough to guarantee equal pay for equal work.

Federal Pay Data Collection

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Before President Barack Obama left office, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced it would require companies with more than 100 employees to report pay rates, including information about those employees' sex, race, and ethnicity. That policy was stalled when, in 2017, the Trump administration blocked that rule before it ever went into effect, per Reuters. A key argument contended that the rule was too burdensome for employers. (Ivanka Trump, notably, supported that decision.)

A judge ruled in March that the commission was legally allowed to collect that data and, according to Bloomberg, ordered that the data collection policy resume.

As Vox explains, collecting data on salary — especially when broken down by other factors, like race and sex — can help provide a benchmark for employees and advocates fighting for equal pay. Without knowing what people are actually making, it's difficult to present any concrete arguments, or even plans, for leveling the playing field.

Paid Family Leave

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According to a New York Times report, women earn significantly less after having a child, compared to men and women who do not become mothers. And, according to Times analysis, it takes women with children a much longer time to not only catch up to their male counterparts — if they ever do — but also to re-achieve the earning level they were at before having a child in the first place.

One way to help fight this, according to HuffPo, is to provide paid family leave — for both men and women. If women continue to receive pay during family leave, advocates argue, they are more likely to return to their job postpartum. This, the argument goes, would ease the transition into parenthood and likely also ease a parent's reintegration into the paid workforce.

Increase The Minimum Wage

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A disproportionate number of women have jobs that pay minimum wage, according to a 2014 report by the National Women's Law Center, as well as other nonprofits who track that type of information. As of 2019, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour — and it hasn't changed in a decade.

One way to help close the gender wage gap, advocates have argued, is by raising the minimum wage so that the people — and especially women — working those jobs will make more money. Although some states have raised their local minimum wage, many state governments have resisted the change. Opponents tend to argue that raising the minimum wage will result in layoffs — which, according to Vox, could be true, to a degree. But what raising the minimum wage also does, Vox reports, is help to increase the overall income for low-income workers, even helping some escape poverty.

The gender wage gap is a complex issue. There are so many factors at play that reversing the pay disparity can seem like a daunting task. One way to wrap your head around the challenge is to examine the solutions currently being pushed by experts and advocates.

Correction: A previous version of this story misinterpreted a report from the Center For American Progress on women's 2018 job gains. It has been updated to more accurately reflect CAP's analysis.