What’s the Real Reason Women Get Paid Less than Men?



Despite the amazing progress of the past century, women continue to struggle with a lack of pay parity. Currently, women working full-time earn just 80 cents for every dollar a man earns—that’s $10,470 less annually—and the elimination of the gender pay gap has largely stalled over the past 15 years. A recent Wells Fargo report delves in to the real reasons women are still paid less than men.

Experience Gap

One contributing factor to wage disparity is an experience gap between men and women, to which the study attributes 14 percent of the pay gap. As women enter their 30s and the likelihood of motherhood increases, a gap in labor participation grows and goes on to have lasting effects. “However brief, greater time spent out of the labor force slows women’s accumulation of job-specific skills for which employers naturally pay a premium,” the report articulates.

The report also reveals that on a daily basis, women spend approximately 50 percent more time than men on housework and more than double the amount of time caring for children. These responsibilities compounded by lower wages and high childcare costs keep an increasing amount of women out of the workforce.

Career Differences

The study goes on to affirm that gender differences in occupation are responsible for over half of the wage gap, as women continue to be underrepresented in higher-paying professions. Women have had considerable success in management, business and financial occupations, where their participation has increased from 34 percent in 1985 to 44 percent today. However, there is a pervasive lack of women in C-suite positions and women continue earning less for the same jobs—for full-time working men and women in the same nursing fields, male nurses earn about 10 percent more than female nurses on average.


Through education women have been able to diminish the wage gap; women comprise 56 percent of students enrolled in four-year undergraduate programs as of Fall 2015. Wells Fargo estimates that without education, the gap would be 6 percent bigger. As women continue attaining higher education, they will be situated for higher earnings and a smaller wage gap will emerge.

As the report makes clear, despite these factors and triumphs, a large portion of the gender wage gap remains unexplained, 38 percent of it to be exact. Here are some possible explanations:

  • pay discrimination, although significantly less common today, may prevent women from earning more and entering higher-paying jobs
  • women are four times less likely than men to ask for a raise; when women do ask, they usually request 30 percent less and are viewed more negatively than men for asking
  • women are less likely to have mentors advocating for promotions and raises; men are 46 percent more likely than women to have a sponsor or mentor
  • women have a need for flexible schedules, which usually come with lower wage consequences


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