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Gender Wage Gap: Definition & Statistics

Instructor: Sharon Linde
You've probably read lately that there's a difference between what men and women earn in today's workplace. Think you understand the gender wage gap? Read on to learn about what the gender wage gap is and what the numbers show about discrepancy in pay.

Defining Gender Wage Gap

Whether you're male or female, you're impacted by the gender wage gap, or GWG. Though the term is used often in the media and other places, it can easily be misunderstood. When we talk about the GWG we mean the difference between what men and women earn as income. In common practice, the wage gap is usually reported as the percentage of a man's salary that a woman makes. Take a look at Bob and Gloria, a brother and sister who both just graduated from college with degrees in marketing. What can they expect to earn? Given the discrepancy outlined above, we can estimate that Gloria will earn a smaller salary than Bob, even though they are equally qualified and able to do the same job. When they apply for and get a job, both will be impacted by the GWG in different ways. Let's see how.

Gender Wage Gap Statistics

We don't have to guess how much less Gloria will make than Bob. Although every career has different numbers and statistics, we can use a general formula to determine what the average GWG is. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2012, the average woman earned 80.9% of what the average man made, when examining median weekly earnings for full-time wage and salary workers.

What Impacts the Gender Wage Gap

It may sound pretty dismal for poor Gloria. It's important to note, however, that this data does not take into account many factors that will affect wage levels, such as:

  • Time taken off of work: Women typically take time off work for family reasons, to have children and raise them or to care for aging parents. This time away from their career impacts the amount of money they make and the projection of future earnings.
  • Years of experience in the field: Regardless of gender, the amount of time an employee has worked changes the GWG data, and not in a woman's favor.
  • Education levels of the workers: The GWG still exists even if both employees receive the same education, like Bob and Gloria.

So, are there statistics regarding how much women make depending on their education? Of course there are! Per the BLS, as of 2012, women working full-time earned a median wage of $561 weekly, while those who held an associate's degree brought home a median of $697 and those who had at least a bachelor's degree (or a higher degree) earned much more, with a median of $1,001 each week.

However, even if you correct for education, the average woman still earns less than the average man. Based on median weekly earnings for full-time wage and salary workers, as of 2012, men with less than a high school diploma earned $508, while women only earned $386. Men who graduated high school but did not attend college made $735, while women with this education made $561. Men who graduated college (at any level) had weekly median paychecks of $1,371, but women with a college education (at any level) still made less, at $1,001. Across all levels of educational attainment, men made more than women, as of 2012.

Gender Wage Gap Facts

What does the GWG actually look like in the United States? Here's a quick look at a few facts:

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