The gender wage gap is both real and hugely problematic. It also, contrary to many peoples’ assumptions, actually widens as women get older, a new study reports.
The U.S. Census Bureau examined individual firms and their employees, tracking the earnings of men and women for more than 20 years, and came to the unsettling conclusion that the gender pay gap widens over time within companies. So the longer women stay loyal to a company and struggle to rise in the ranks, the more they are actually losing footing with their male counterparts.
After graduating college, women making around 89 percent of what college-educated men do, but by the time they are 45 years old, that percentage has fallen to 57 percent of their counterparts’ salaries, the study finds.
The study admits that they did not discover the “why,” to this problem, only the “how.” They do know that the pay gap widens when people change jobs (men move to higher-paying companies than women do) and that when married couples relocate it is often to benefit the “primary career” (the man’s career) without considering the woman’s career.
Some of this is do to antiquated gender roles that assume the male is the primary caretaker of a family, and the fact that women tend to be punished for starting a family disproportionately to men. Still, as we know from cases like Emmy Rossum making less than her male co-stars in Shameless, this certainly is not the only factor.
The first step to closing the gender wage gap is acknowledging that it exists and that we have to fight to change policies (like the federal court ruling that allows women to be paid less for the exact same job) that restrict women from gaining financial and professional equality in the workplace.