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September 16, 2021

The US and the Gender Pay Gap in 2021

While the national pay gap between men and women has improved somewhat over time, women make 18% less in annual earnings than men. So, progress is slow going, but how slow? 

Let’s look at the U.S. and the gender pay gap in 2021.

The Issue

Business.org rounded up data on the gender pay gap, ranking states based on the percentage difference between women’s and men’s earnings for full-time, non-seasonal employees. In configuring the rankings, the stop-pay methodology was used. In such a methodology, stop-pay dates are the day of the year women begin working for free based on that state’s gender gap. The stats were figured by aggregating data from government and academic sources.

What Were the Findings?

Due to the nation’s pay gap of 18%, women effectively stop getting paid for the year on Oct. 29. Also, according to the findings, there is no state in which women have a higher average salary, although Vermont has the smallest pay gap, with women earning “only” 9% less than men overall. Meanwhile, Wyoming has the biggest pay gap, with women being paid 35% less than men overall. 

Women in Washington, D.C. have average salaries of $75,750 – the nation’s highest for the gender. Still, the District has a gender pay gap of 17%. Mississippi has the lowest average salary for women at $33,140 and a gender pay gap of 23%.

What is Behind the State Gaps?

What is driving small or large pay gaps in states? 

Among the many reasons are:

  • Unequal access to funding for female-owned businesses.
  • Business cultures wherein men are promoted more than women or are more apt to get raises.
  • Unequal hiring practices.
  • States that have cultures that prioritize conventional family work structures.
  • The number of women-owned businesses in a state.
  • Too few states laws protect women from discriminatory corporate practices.

What is the Context?

While the pay gap narrowed somewhat during the early years of this century, there has been little progress in the last decade or so. Since 2010, women have earned between 81% and 82% of what men make.

Are There Some Occupations That Fare Better?

Yes, there are some industries or occupations in which women generally earn more than men. Female movie producers and directors, for example, earn 106% of what their male colleagues make. This is considered a more reasonable gender pay gap, by the way. There should only be a couple of points of difference in salaries for males and females in every occupation, experts say.

Other industries with relatively small pay gaps include office and administrative support workers, bus drivers, wholesale and retail buyers, and fast food and counter workers.

By contrast, though, female real estate brokers and sales agents make just 69% of what males earn. That size disparity is problematic and should be analyzed for potentially biased practices. Other occupations with significant pay gaps include legal, medical scientists, financial managers, first-line supervisors of housekeeping and janitorial workers, as well as credit counselors and loan officers.

The Upshot

In 2021, the gender pay gap in the United States is at a crucial point. While progress has been made overall, there are signs of stagnation in the national income disparity. The chief way – perhaps the only way — to make enduring inroads is to change deep-seated practices and cultures that have a proclivity for promoting males over equally deserving females. Such changes can be made in communities, workplaces, and governments.

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