Gender pay gap still plagues workforce despite slow improvements

Women still make less money than men, according to a new study by the U.S. Census Bureau, which reports a 23 percent pay difference between the sexes in 2011.

The study found the median income for women with full-time jobs last year was $37,118, compared to $48,202 for men. The gender pay gap was the same in 2010.

Christianne Corbett, senior researcher at the American Association of University Women, said there are a number of reasons for the pay gap.

“Men and women tend to work in different jobs and men tend to work in higher-paying jobs,” Corbett said. “Women’s work has been traditionally less valued compared to work that men have done. Another explanation that people put forth is that men work longer hours.”

Women are often overlooked for promotional opportunities at work because of their traditional roles as mothers, said Kathy Rose-Mockry, program director of the Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity. This could be because they typically take more responsibility for the family and are more likely to “stop out” of their careers or work part-time to care for children, Rose-Mockry said.

Race also plays into the pay gap findings. The Census Bureau study showed white women make more money weekly compared to African American and Hispanic men and women. White women make an average of $703 a week, while black men, who on average make more than black women, make $653 weekly. Hispanic men, who also make more than Hispanic women, earn $571 weekly. However, Asian American men make more than average white man, about $970 a week; Asian American women also make more than white women, about $751 a week.

Terriss Ford, a freshman from Overland Park, said the ratio doesn’t mean employers are discriminating against women purposely.

“The gender roles that have been established over the course of time haven’t completely deteriorated yet,” Ford said. “Men have always been on the top of that ladder.”

Gabby Guillen, a senior from Topeka, said the pay gap isn’t fair. She said many people believe men are more capable than women.

“They are more masculine and more powerful than women are,” Guullen said. “People respect men taking control over women.”

According to an interpretation of the study from the AAUW called “The Simple Truth About the Pay Gap,” full-time working women in Kansas made an average of $32,204 in 2010. Full-time working men in Kansas made an average of $43,773. The ratio in Kansas was 3 percent lower than the national average.

AAUW’s analysis also suggests the gender pay gap decreased since the 1970s because of women’s progress in education and in the workforce. Yet within the past decade, the ratio has been fairly stagnant.

Jake Waters, a sophomore from Hutchinson, said the pay gap is decreasing too slowly.

“It’s messed up,” Waters said. “There should be equal pay right now.”

— Edited by Joanna Hlavacek

  • Updated Sep. 18, 2012 at 11:43 pm