Gender Pay Gap Explained

By Maria Wittenauer

Many, if not all, of you have heard about the gender pay gap. If you’re like me, you’ve heard the bare minimum and are rightly confused as to the logistics of the whole thing. Some argue that the pay gap is a myth, while others assert that it is a real problem that needs to be dealt with. All of these differing opinions and claims make it very hard to decipher the reality of the gender pay gap and filter out the truths and untruths.

Glassdoor, in an article entitled “Demystifying the Gender Pay Gap: Evidence from Glassdoor Salary Data,” has attempted to use data to describe what is really going on in this issue. The executive summary of the article explains the logistics of the study and what the data shows.

The study was conducted on five countries: The United States, The United Kingdom,

Germany, France, and Australia. The study confirms that the gender pay gap over all five of these countries is roughly the widely-known fact that women make about $0.75 to every dollar a man makes.

However, the gap narrows once statistical controls are taken into account. The study states, “However, comparing workers with similar age, education and years of experience shrinks that gap to 19.2 percent. Further, comparing workers with the same job title, employer and location, the gender pay gap in the U.S. falls to 5.4 percent (94.6 cents per dollar.)

So, the gap is smaller than common knowledge states, but the fact remains that there is a gap. Glassdoor continues by looking into what exactly is causing this gap: most notably, if the gap is due to gender discrimination. Out of the whole of the gap, the study factored “explained” and “unexplained” reasons for pay difference into the equation. Explained reasons are instances in which the gap exists simply due to a difference in workers not having to do with gender. Unexplained reasons are “part due either to workplace bias–whether intentional or not–or unobserved worker characteristics.” What was found over the five countries studied was that explained reasons make up 51-71 percent of the gap, and unexplained reasons make up 29-40 percent of the gap. In the United States in particular, explained reasons make up 67% of the gap, while unexplained reasons make up 33% of the gap.

Looking even further Glassdoor delves into what is causing the gap. It states that it is primarily due to the different types of jobs that men and women hold, an aspect that is responsible for 54% of the gap in the U.S. Glassdoor cites the Census, which shows that women hold about 26% of of “highly paid chief executives,” and 71% of “low paid cashiers.” This is where the factor of gender norms comes into play: women and men, research shows, are encouraged by society to pursue different career tracks, placing women in lower paying careers.

What we learn from this Glassdoor report is that the gap may not be as large as most people believe, but it still exists. For more information, visit


Maria Wittenauer, from Springfield, Illinois, is a junior double-majoring in theatre and communication and rhetorical studies and minoring in English at Illinois College. Maria is a features editor for The Rambler, a consultant at the Writing Center, and a member of Gamma Delta and the IC Women’s Chorale.

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