The Chicago Employment Law Blog

Wage Inequality: Women Still Earn 23% Less Than Men

Unfortunately, wage inequality is still an issue in employment law.

A Time Magazine article titled "Why Do Women Still Earn Less Than Men?" leads with the statement that April 20, 2010 is the day most American women finally earned what their male counterparts made in 2009. US women typically earn just 77 cents for every dollar earned by their otherwise equal, male colleagues, according to the National Committee on Pay Equity.  

It's even worse for women of color: African-American women earn 32 percent less than their male counterparts, while Latinas only make 58 percent of what equally situated men earn. To mark the dubious occasion, NCPE has marked April 20 Equal Pay Day.

Some of the wage inequality has to do with blatant employment discrimination, in which case it's best to call on the expertise of an Illinois employment lawyer.

And if you didn't realize that your pay was discriminatory until years after the typical statute of limitations ran out, FindLaw explains how a 2009 law named for Goodyear employee Lilly Ledbetter can help. In fact, federal law provides several protections barring discrimination against women in the workplace.

But still, women earn significantly less than men. Why?

Sources cited by Time, including research by Cornell University economists Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn, suggest that the 77 percent figure doesn't tell the complete story. They suggest that the gap is only 91 percent once factors such as education, experience, occupation, industry and union membership are accounted for.

The economists also suggest that while men with comparable education tend to go into higher-wage professions, women with the most education tend to gravitate toward lower-paying fields. Still, as National Organization for Women president Terry O'Neill argues, workers don't choose their professions in a vacuum:

"Why do you think [male-dominated industries] are sex-segregated? Very often women aren't welcome there."

And additional research suggests that even when controlling for such factors, women typically earn 76 percent to 83 percent as much as their male counterparts.

So the question remains unanswered, but at least it's being asked more often.

Wage inequality is an issue that can impact many people. If you feel that you have suffered from wage inequality, know that you can always speak with a Chicago employment lawyer in order to discuss your options.

Related Resources: