The Gender Wage Gap in the United States: Current Policy and an Improved Approach for Closing the Gap

By Sareen Armani
2013, Vol. 5 No. 06 | pg. 3/4 |

There are currently no enforceable practices that attempt to measure discrimination at its epicenter within corporations, as it is occurring or before it happens and to subdue its subsequent infiltration. We cannot currently measure the levels of discrimination within corporations statistically, thus paving the way for failed justice and inequality. Gender discrimination leading to the wage gap is not prevented, but controlled after the fact. It is more efficient and effective to prevent a sickness rather than to treat it afterwards with questionable antibiotics, just as it is more effective to implement new policies that serve as preventive measures rather than flawed and imperfect controlling measures that leave 1.5 million Americans without the equality they were promised in the Declaration of Independence.

Discrimination can be prevented and the pay gap narrowed by proposing a policy to create a branch of government solely dedicated to gender equality, coined the Department of Gender Equality. Similar to the setup in Iceland, this branch, perhaps within the Department of Labor, will have subdivisions. Subdivision A3 will be dedicated to the creation of a set of laws through proposed and passed bills to congress with specific, coordinated control mechanisms that would require companies to conduct pay gap analyses each fiscal year. Subdivision B will concern itself with the descrambling of each corporation’s pay gap analysis, to successfully extract employers’ recruitment and pay trends and to calculate within occupation pay gaps. Subdivision C will be responsible for the taxation of these corporations based on the calculated pay gaps presented by Subdivision B. Subdivision D will be in charge of educating the American population on the legal, sociological, and economical viewpoints of sex and gender by the inclusion of such topics in the school curriculum, and will be discussed in the next section.

Under Subdivision A, each registered company with the United States will have to perform a pay gap analysis every fiscal year, an online governmental form that the corporation must fill in. As an example, Australia’s Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) recommends that companies run a pay gap analysis for the organization as a whole, along with the breakdown of the gap by factors, such as occupation, to ensure that comparable occupations are grouped together. The Australian organizational pay gap analysis, the “payroll analysis tool” is an excel document that collects organizational data on items such as gender, education level, employee numbers including hours worked, employee full time or part time status, job titles including skill, responsibility, and working conditions, and salary (Australian Government, 2012). Similar to Australia, the United States will require each registered company to perform such an analysis. In addition to the aforementioned set of data, the analysis will include race, age, and number of children, since older mothers who are minorities experience the highest amount of unequal pay. Needles to say, coupled with such an analysis, the United States will have to prohibit salary secrecy, but for privacy reasons will redact names on these documents. By occupationally categorizing workers within companies, a within occupation pay gap per company can be obtained.

Consequently, Subdivision B will use an intricately developed software analysis tool to mass compare each company’s within occupation gap analysis to those of the national average. As shown in Figures 3 and 4, the 2011 average national occupational pay gaps differ such that predominately female occupations have a smaller pay gap than those that are male dominated (Institute for Women's Policy Research, 2012). Using such data, a company’s range of occupational pay gaps will be compared against those of the national averages. The difference between the company’s occupational pay gaps compared to the national averages will be calculated and recorded, and then averaged. For example, if Company X has only two occupations: secretary or manager, then the following will apply: if the company has a secretary pay gap of 15%, compared to the average of 14%; and a manager pay gap of 27.5% compared to the average of 25.5%, then there exist differences of 1% and 2% respectively. An average of these differences will be taken to yield the company’s pay gap of 1.5% as a whole, averaged for differences within occupations. If the averaged difference is greater than -2%4, then the company will be taxed for exhibiting a substantial pay gap.

Figure 3: The Wage Gap in the 20 Most Common Occupations for Women (Full-Time Workers Only), 2011.

Wage Gap for Women in 20 Most Common Occupations

Figure 4: The Wage Gap in the 20 Most Common Occupations for Men (Full-Time Workers Only), 2011.

Wage Gap for Men in 20 Most Common Occupations

Next, Subdivision C will be responsible for the implementation of the aforementioned taxes and will conduct checks and balances on randomly selected companies to verify taxes. Once companies complete their online pay gap analyses forms, the developed software automatically calculates their “averaged differences.” Companies will then be notified if they must file taxes for that year. The taxed amount will be dependent on each state in order to account for interstate and environmental wage differences, but must be above 5% of the company’s net profit. Subdivision C will also be held accountable for running monthly verifications on a random sample of companies in order to ensure the accurate inputting of data in the pay gap analyses and the correct filing of taxes. If companies decide to engage in illegal behavior and misreport data or not file taxes, they must be prepared to stand trial in a court of law. This process will be similar to a citizen’s filing of taxes. Any tax fraud will be not be taken lightly.

This policy will consist of the creation of the Department of Gender Equality within the Department of Labor. Within this department will be the subdivisions A, B, and C, and the obtaining of companies’ yearly pay gap analyses, the calculation of companies’ averaged pay gaps, and the successful taxation of companies exhibiting a substantial amount of gender pay discrepancies. This policy aims to detect and measure existing occupational discrimination via companies’ pay gaps and attempts to cut it at its root, thereby preventing any future discrimination and decreasing the national pay gap. With such a policy in place, the Supreme Court will not have to rule out discrimination class actions similar to that of Dukes v. Walmart Stores Inc. The case was not granted a certification for the class action to be continued to trial due to a lack of commonality of issues arising from immeasurable differences in individual workers’ situations. This policy allows for the averaged, standardized, statistical proof of such discrimination.

Inclusion of Gender in School Curriculums

There are a number of other secondary policies that may be implemented to help close the gender pay gap. In the world today, sex education is a mandatory part of the school curriculum in various countries in an effort to debunk stigmas and provide adolescents knowledge and skills to make calculated decisions regarding their sexual behavior. As a result, sexually transmitted diseases, teenage pregnancies, and sexual violence are fairly prevented. Similarly, gender studies and discrimination should be a mandatory part of the American school curriculum in order to combat stereotypes and stigmas that eventually refuel gender roles and reproduce discrimination in the work place, preventing the decrease in the pay gap. Subdivision D of the proposed Department of Gender Equality will oversee the educating of the American population on the legal, sociological, and economical viewpoints of sex and gender by the inclusion of such topics in the school curriculum.

Shown by both Martin’s experiment and Thorne and Luria’s experiment, children in preschools and elementary schools are socialized through gendered interactions, such that “separate gender groups, which sustain different meanings of the sexual, ritualized, and asymmetric relations between girl and boys, prepare the way for the sexual scripts of early adolescence” (Thorne & Luria, 1986). If gender differences indeed contribute to inequality, such differences are partly constructed via interaction within the classroom, through a hidden curriculum that appears to feel natural at such a young age (Martin, 1998). If such a gendering process does indeed occur at a young age, gender roles are reinforced throughout middle and high school and such a cycle of socialization with its consequence of discrimination may go unnoticed unless addressed.

By requiring all states to include explanations of gender, sex, and discrimination in their high school curriculums, the United States can educate adolescents on believed causes of discrimination and raise awareness of the persisting gap. Nonprofit organizations now attempt to educate women to comprehend the importance of the pay gap. Rather than having such organizations attempt to reach some of the population, the government, through Subdivision D of the Department of Gender Equality, will ensure that all citizens are properly educated on the matter by enforcing a mandatory sex and gender curriculum in all states and all public and private high schools. Rather than blindly adhering to socially constructed stigmas, the population will use their increased awareness to actively put into question the underlying stereotypes and stigmas that refuel the inequality cycle. Women will gradually begin to speak out and ask for equal work for equal pay. Discrimination will decrease and the pay gap will reduce in size.

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