Avibra is dedicated to the overall well-being of our members and our communities. We know that we can always be doing more and working harder to make a real difference in people’s lives. Last month, Social Impact featured race, racism and racial justice in the US. This month, the topic is gender inequality and discrimination. We will also be donating to Girls Who Code, an organization whose mission is to close the gender gap in technology throughout the country.
With everyone in the US feeling the recent effects of the coronavirus, it can be difficult to dig deeper into how individual groups are being affected in different ways. Unemployment rates seem to be going up across the board, for example, but if you dig into the numbers you can see that women are more likely to be losing their jobs in recent months. Between May of 2019 and March of 2020, the unemployment rate for women was almost identical to that of men’s. As we started to really see the effects of the coronavirus take hold, women have been experiencing worse job prospects and significantly higher unemployment. While numbers like that can be caused by any number of complex reasons, it’s been highlighting some real disparities.
Our communities can all benefit from us working together to make sure that everyone is treated equally. Gender inequality has been built into our society at nearly every level, which is why we always need to be on the lookout for ways to remove it.
Gender Pay Gap
You’ll often see different numbers thrown around when people talk about the gender pay gap in America. That’s because there are so many ways to look at the question. Should we be comparing a snapshot in time? An average over 15 years? Lifetime earnings? Each of these is really a different question and will lead to different answers. Most of the research done on the topic does end up showing a gender pay gap of at least 80 cents to every dollar men earn. And if we factor in race, Black women make, at best, 61 cents to the dollar and Latina women make 53 cents to the dollar compared to men.
A potential cause that’s studied most is the effect of leaving the workforce for any period of time to care for family members. That’s not even limited to babies and kids, either. Women tend to shoulder the responsibility of older or sick family members as well. These roles are all important in a family, but they’re not things that women tend to get paid for. And the real difficulties may extend far beyond those weeks, months or years at home. Re-entering the workforce isn’t easy, especially when your resume has some hefty gaps in it.
Beyond decisions around starting a family, many people wonder if women simply tend to choose jobs that pay less. An enormous study looked at Census data over 50 years. It found that, as women joined a certain field in higher numbers, the jobs in that field started paying less. This was true even when they controlled for education, experience, skills, race and location.
When a group of people is paid less, their ability to save money to weather a storm (like the one the world is currently facing) is decreased as well.
Similar to the studies that have been done on hiring and racial discrimination, the same simple experiment has been done with gender. Identical resumes for a STEM job are more successful with John at the top than with Jennifer. A “Jennifer” is perceived as less competent than a “John,” and she’s offered a starting salary 13% lower even if she has the exact same qualifications.
Labor at Home
Just about half of the US workforce — 46.9% — is made up of women. And yet women tend to take on much more than half of the responsibilities at home, too. Recent research that studied life during the Covid-19 pandemic showed that women who have full-time work, a partner and children spend 71 hours each week on child and elder care as well as household chores. For men in a similar situation, that number is just 51 hours. Similar studies over the years have shown similar results.
What We Can Do
It can be tough to face these imbalances head-on in our communities, places of work and homes. However, if we don’t take steps to make sure we’re not part of the problem, these issues will just be carried through to the next generation and the one after that. Gender inequality is a problem that persists in our culture and in the back of our minds.
When it comes to implicit bias on gender, there’s bad news and there’s good news. The bad news is that it’s very persistent and many will fight tooth and nail to argue that it doesn’t exist. We now know that the data is pretty conclusive, though. The good news is that when you make the people in charge aware that their hiring decisions are being looked at more closely, they’re less likely to make biased decisions. That means you have to be willing to ask hard questions at work about why your employer seems to keep hiring men even though there are qualified women applicants. Beyond that, it’s a good idea to ask how employee recruitment is equitable, too.
When it comes to equal pay, being transparent about your income can go a long way. The National Labor Relations Act gives all employees the right to talk about their wages and salary at work. Talking with coworkers about what was once considered a taboo subject can go a long way toward helping everyone get on equal footing.
If you’re making a life and home together with a woman, it might be a good time to have a talk about how much of the household burden each of you is shouldering. There are tons of books out there that do a pretty good job of helping lay the groundwork for a more equitable division of labor, like Eve Rodsky’s Fair Play.