What Is the Gender Pay Gap?

Karen Nyberg
NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg working in the laboratory of the International Space Station.

In 1963, the United States government passed a law called the Equal Pay Act. That law meant that men could not be paid more than women for doing the same job. Yet statistics from 2018 show that women overall in the United States made 82% of what men made for their work.

This is called the gender pay gap. It’s the difference between what men and women are paid for their work. The gender pay gap is calculated by comparing the average income of all women who work full-time and the average income of all men who work full-time. Many experts believe that the gender pay gap is harmful to women and to their families. Making less money means that there is less money to save, and it’s harder to pay for things people need every day.

What causes the gender pay gap? Industries that have mostly male workers tend to pay higher than industries with mostly female workers. In some careers, women receive much less money for doing an equal job. For example, male surgeons are often paid more than female ones. Women also tend to get promotions at jobs more slowly than men do. The pay gap is even worse for women of color, and the pay gap increases for all women later in their careers.

Experts believe that workplaces would benefit from paying men and women equally and from promoting them equally.

What Do You Think? Why do you think that workplaces would be better if men and women were paid equally for their work? What do you think people and businesses could do to make the gap go away?

Photo Credit: NASA