The 24-cent difference

Why do New Hampshire women lose almost $3 billion every year? Because of the gender wage gap.

Ninety-seven years ago, women were granted the right to vote through the 19th Amendment, which ended the concept of a dominant sex in correlation to voting. Ninety-seven years later, women persist in fighting for privileges, such as legal access to abortion and equivalent salaries to their male counterparts. Numerous protests and marches are convened in the hope of raising awareness for women’s civil rights. However, despite these assemblies, gender discrimination continues to be prevalent in today’s society.

Why does New Hampshire have one of the most significant wage gaps in the Northeast? According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, New Hampshire has the 14th-largest wage gap in the United States. New Hampshire is ranked third among all 50 states regarding education and ranked fourth overall among all states in health care. So why do we lag behind in closing the gap between genders?

The idea that there is a definitive difference in incomes between genders appears as absurd. Extensive research and studies by multiple universities manifest the veracity behind this income difference. The standard woman in New Hampshire with a full-time, yearlong job earns 76 cents for every dollar made by a man. A study based on the 2014 Census by the National Partnerships for Women and Families revealed that women with full-time jobs earned an average salary of $42,052, whereas males earned $55,617.

If the wage gap were to be eradicated, New Hampshire women would gain improved access to essentials such as food and shelter for 14 months, which would vastly improve life for the 24 percent of Granite State women living below the poverty level.

Statistics developed by the National Partnerships depict the worsening national wage gap by race. For every dollar earned by a white man, black women are paid 63 cents and Latina women are paid 54 cents. Asian women are paid 85 cents for every dollar earned by a white male. White women are paid 75 cents for every dollar made by a male. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the wage gap is estimated to close around 2079 in New Hampshire.

There are a multitude of reasons to explain the gender wage gap. Countless women encounter health issues during and post-pregnancy, resulting in missing work. Studies conducted at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst report that 39 percent of women have taken off from work for a pregnancy whereas fathers see a boost in their pay after their child is born.

I spoke with Sarah Mattson Dustin of the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation, who when asked about employer bias and established gender superiority in the workforce said, “Most businesses want to do the right thing, and you can’t group all industries together. Some employers are moving aggressively to close the gender wage gap. But if we look at American workers in general, there is a persistent wage gap between men and women that can’t be explained away.”

A study by Glassdoor found that men and women in the same occupation with the same employer and skill level earned different incomes, which can only be attributed to employer bias within the workplace. The wage gap persists at all levels and simply cannot be attributed to the choice of profession by each respective gender.

According to Dustin, “the birth of a child doesn’t have the same effect in the workplace for mothers and fathers.”

The assumption that women are the default caretaker of a child opens the door for higher expectations in the workforce. Studies show that if there is a work-related trip offered, it is more likely to go to a man with small children, rather than a woman with small children as she is the presumed caretaker of the children.

Lawmakers can reintroduce the Paycheck Fairness Act to close holes in the Equal Pay Act and implement a new series of protections. Without new legislation brought up in Senate, the risk of this gap enduring until 2079 exists.

Women need to recognize that their worth is the equivalent of their male co-workers. Workshops regarding negotiation would edify women on how to be intelligent and confident when negotiating incomes as well as advise them not to fear to enter male-dominated fields. Further regulations can ensure equal treatment within the workforce. Moreover, regulations can mandate for companies to issue and analyze regular audits to prevent discrepancies in incomes.

Anusha Kankure is a junior at Nashua South High School.

Categories: Opinion