The gender pay gap

Date posted: May 2, 2014

Recently “equal pay day” was celebrated to highlight the continuing difference between average salaries of male workers compared to female workers.  Females earn less, although the difference has been gradually shrinking over time. Host Mary Walden asks her husband N.C. State economist Mike Walden, why should there be a difference at all in what males and females earn?

Mike Walden: “Well Mary, excellent question, and of course this has been a long-time issue. One of the problems in making this comparison between pay of males and pay of females is you have to make sure you’re comparing apples and apples. By that I mean for example, if you look at the data, the average male works more hours than the average female. So, their total salaries obviously are going to be higher. So, you have to adjust for that. Also, currently more males have more educational training, and they have more experience in higher paying fields. So again, if you have a male who’s working in finance for example, and he’s got a Master’s Degree in finance, and you’re comparing that worker to perhaps a female who’s working in sales, obviously the male worker is going to earn higher pay. And then a lingering issue for females of course is that because of the biological necessity, the females are the ones who carry and deliver children. When they are doing that, often times they take extended time from their work and for some businesses that can be viewed as a negative. So, all these things combined I think do help at least explain some of the differences between the pay for males and the pay for females. Now, I think that we’re going to see that this difference will continue to shrink. For example, females now dominate classrooms of higher education. More females are now in college than males. So, that means they’re getting trained for better paying jobs. And I do think that businesses are coming more and more to recognize the very important responsibility of child rearing. And I think more businesses are going to, in the future, make accommodations to female workers for that very important task and not have it adversely affect their rate of pay.”

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