By Robert Weiner and Thekla Truebenbach
You would almost think that something as basic as gender equality would long be established in our society. Far from it. Especially when it comes to getting paid the same amount of money for the same work, the inequality between men and women is dramatic. For example, we were shocked to see that Baton Rouge, La.'s disparity is especially large.
In 2015, there was still a payment gap of 20 percent between full-time working women in the United States and their male colleagues.
In Baton Rouge the situation is even worse. The Institute for Women's Policy Research analyzed census numbers and found Baton Rouge as the having the highest average income disparity between men and women for medium and large cities (more than 200,000 population) in the country. Women in Baton Rouge only earn 64.9% of what their male colleagues make. The average income of male workers is $53,155, whereas wages of female employees only sum up to $34,522. That means that woman earn less than two dollars for every three dollars a man makes.
The city's wide pay gap occurs even though women there tend to be more educated than their male colleagues. The female to male ratio at Southern University and A&M College in the city is 65% to 35%, and at Louisiana State University there are slightly more female students (52%).
One of the reasons why women often get paid less than their male colleagues is that many females choose to stay home with the kids or work part time when they become a parent. That obviously has a big impact on earnings, cutting back on paid working hours. Many companies are still very conservative when it comes to designing a flexible workday. Often young parents are not granted the possibility of arranging their hours as it is best for their family life, or they are not allowed to work from home.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) better life index found out that the US is 28th among 38 countries surveyed, meaning that the country far from leads the way. If parents cannot afford a nanny or their child did not get one of the rare places in daycare, one of them has to stay home with the kid. Most of the time it is the mother. According to the Pew Research Institute, in only 46% of American two-parent households do both mother and father work full time.
Another reason for women getting paid less is the choices they make in what they want to become after graduating. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women tend to choose jobs in health care, education or office and administrative support, whereas men prefer to work in fields like construction, production and transportation. The work men do tends to pay better wages than traditionally female-dominated jobs which require the same kind of education and skill. Jobs in the manufacturing sector in Baton Rouge for example paid women just more than half of what their male colleagues earned working in this business.
Are women in Baton Rouge and America picking the "women's" jobs because they cannot access the "men's"? Even after factors impacting the pay gap like working part time or being employed in worse paying industries are subtracted out, there still remains a 7 percent difference between the wages of female and male college graduates one year after graduation, which cannot be explained with logical arguments.
It all comes down to society still not valuing women in the same way as men. It is still in many minds that women are not worth as much as men and that they do not deserve the same. It is very hard to alter that kind of thinking implanted in not only many men's but just as much in women's heads over time, but we must.
Attitudes -- and actions -- can change if the government implements laws fighting this inequality, and if the private sector trains and educates itself. One of President Obama's final acts in office was the announcement at the White House on December 7 saying that 44 more companies have signed on to the administration's equal pay pledge with the goal of paying men and women equally.
Employers need to work to close the gap in payment between female and male workers. But in the end, a lot comes down to us as individuals. As long as we do not accept that women are worth just as much as men, in every single area and that no one has the right to take anything away from someone just because of gender, the gap will never close, and we will forever be stuck in the archaic age of inequality.
Robert Weiner is a former spokesman for the Clinton and Bush White Houses and the U.S. House Government Operations Committee. Thekla Truebenbach is a policy analyst at Robert Weiner Associates and Solutions for Change.
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