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Gender gap still exists, economists speculate as to why

January 30, 2013

Almost exactly 50 years ago the Equal Pay Act of 1963 was signed into law. By enacting this legislation, law makers and those who supported the bill hoped that it would help eliminate the large wage gap that existed between the salaries of men and women. In that year women were earning on average 58.9 cents to every dollar that men were making.

Now, nearly half a century later, economists, feminists, employees and many others look back at the difference that this legislation has helped make. There is evidence for success in that the wage gap has been reduced from 58.9 percent in 1963 to an average women’s weekly salary that is 82.2 percent of what men make. “Wait a minute,” some may be thinking. “Why is there still a gap at all?”

While a gap still exists, some economists say it may not be for the reasons that one might think. For instance, one economist referenced the fact that women tend to apply for and accept less physically demanding jobs — ones that tend to pay a little more than an office equivalent. In areas with a higher percentage of white collar office jobs, the data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the wage gap tends to be smaller.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics analysis was based on a cents-on-the-dollar equation measured by weekly wages, but other analysis of the data says that the picture may be worse than we think. A study conducted by the National Women’s Law Center shows that if you look at the average annual salary, women make only about 77.4 cents for every dollar a man earns.

No matter how you look at it, a gap still exists and disparate treatment in pay, promotions, benefits or other labor things based on gender could become the basis of a discrimination claim in New Jersey.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “50 years later, women still are paid less,” Ann Belser, Jan. 23, 2013

If you have been targeted at the workplace for discrimination based on your gender, our New Jersey Employment Discrimination page provides access to those who can help.

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