Earlier this fall, my 7th grader came home with an informative paper to write where students had to pick a current social or economic issue and provide their “solution” to solving the problem. She chose the gender pay gap as her topic but found it challenging to understand why the gap even existed, and how to solve it.
After some research and having her parents explain the cogs of the corporate world, she finally “got it” she was quite infuriated that those “dumb boys” would make more than her for the same job (at her age, every boy at school is annoying). In fact, she learned from the Pew Research Center that in 2022, American women typically earned 82 cents for every dollar earned by men.
Pay inequality has been around since women moved from full-time home caretakers to full-time breadwinners, but it’s most noticeable in male dominated industries.
According to Data USA, women make up 19% of the chemical engineering workforce today, which is a huge improvement from a decade ago when less than 12% were female.
And while the number of women in STEM careers continues to grow, the wage gap is still a challenge. In our salary surveys, many female engineers pointed out their pay is subpar compared to their male peers when asked how they felt about their compensation. In fact, Data USA shows that female chemical engineers, on average, make $109,434 while men take home $121,051. And, the National Science Foundation found that female engineers made $15,000 less than their male counterparts in chemical, electrical and materials engineering.
Why is this, in 2023, still a thing?
There’s no good answer to this complex social problem. Women still bear the brunt of household care even while working full time. This often leads to the assumption they have less time to devote to their careers — particularly when childcare issues arise. Rather than reward women for their tenacity and ability to multitask and balance family and work life, instead their pay essentially is docked.
The Pay Transparency Act has been making strides to help offset salary discrepancies, but both upper management and society in general still have a ways to go in promoting equal pay. My daughter’s solution: a computer algorithm that determines salaries for workers based on experience and skills and removes the gender factor. Maybe one day she’ll be part of the solution.