As hard as it may be to believe, despite all the progress being made towards gender equality, the wage gap in the United States is still real. We often hear that women make only 79 cents to every man’s dollar. Furthermore, that 20% difference only grows in size once race is added into the equation, as women of color make even less than white women.
Many argue that women are just more likely to choose lower-paying jobs, therefore the equal pay for equal work argument does not apply; in some cases this is true. However, when those variables are factored in, a gap still exists where it absolutely should not. This disparity is very telling of a gender-biased society.
The wage gap often seems very difficult to detect and by extension difficult to stop. However, the Department of Labor recently cracked down on one of the largest companies in the world for “extreme” workplace discrimination. Google, the accused company, is being sued by the DOL and asked to hand over information on their compensation reports. The company, although legally obligated to do so under the terms of its contract with the federal government, has refused.
The Guardian reports that, “The investigation is not complete, but at this point the department has received compelling evidence of very significant discrimination against women in the most common positions at Google headquarters,” said Janet Herold, Regional Solicitor for Region IX in the DOL. Although Google refuses to make their internal wage analysis public, they recently tweeted, “We’re proud to share that we have closed the gender pay gap globally, and also provide equal pay across races in the US.”
Google provides diversity data on their site which shows that only 31% of their employees are women. They also claim to have made great progress in 2015; 21% of new hires in tech were women in, compared to 19% of their current overall population. This may statistically be “progress” but it still doesn’t feel like enough to many women striving for equality in STEM fields.
The problem however may not just lie within Google; women across the board are underrepresented in STEM programs. Women’s roles in computer science in particular have decreased since the 1980s when they accounted for 37% of computer science undergraduate students.
Computerscience.org reports, “This trend begins well before entering the job market: girls account for more than half of all Advanced Placement (AP) test-takers, yet boys outnumber girls 4:1 in computer science exams.”
Computer science is often one of the few careers where women are likely to earn as much as their male counterparts, yet despite the rise of technology and the at home computer, women simply do not enter those fields as often as men, and when they do, people are often shocked by their career decisions. It can be difficult to find employers willing to hire women.
Until Google decides to reveal their compensation analysis, the wage inequality case may not have enough evidence. Under the current administration, it may be even harder to prosecute companies that treat their workers unfairly. However, there is without a doubt a worldwide problem of underrepresentation of women, and that should have been solved long ago.
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