Imagine how your wedding planning might be different right now if you knew, without a doubt, that you’d make an extra $1 million over the course of your career. Would you have gone with white orchids in your centerpieces instead of roses and eucalyptus? A custom Valentino wedding dress, perhaps? Oh, the possibilities!
Well, you can blame the gender wage gap for your need to stay budget-conscious. According to a report that came out earlier this year, women will, on average, earn about $1 million less than men do over the course of their professional careers. Researchers out of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce found that the only way women are able to make as much money as their male counterparts is to attain an additional academic degree. NBD.
“A woman with a bachelor’s degree earns $61,000 per year on average, roughly equivalent to that of a man with an associate’s degree,” the report (so appropriately titled “Women Can’t Win”) stated. “The same rule holds true for women with master’s degrees compared to men with bachelor’s degrees and for each successive level of educational attainment.”
The 68-page report, published in February, has a lot of great data on how and why the gender wage gap persists to this day—a bit mind-boggling, considering education is supposed to pave the way to higher income, and more women are pursuing associate, bachelor, and graduate degrees. Women have actually outnumbered men on college campuses in the United States since the 1970s. Seems like education really isn’t the greatest socioeconomic equalizer after all.
Part of it, researchers write, is, well, our own damn fault. Women tend to major in and enter fields like education and the social sciences—all of which offer lower pay. (Hence, why teachers across the country have been protesting their horrible wages.) If they do enter a so-called lucrative field, such as healthcare, they tend to choose occupations that pay lower salaries. For example, 89 percent of registered nurses are women; however, they only make up 43 percent of physicians and surgeons.
The report states that another reason for the lower pay grade is, simply put, discrimination. “Even when they do everything right—choose a high-paying field of study, pursue a high-paying major within that field, and get a job in a high-paying occupation—women still get paid less than their male peers,” the report’s authors point out. “If a man and woman who are equally qualified get the same job, the woman still only earns 92 cents for every dollar the man is paid—more than 81 cents, to be sure, but a far cry from earnings equality.”
For the record, 81 cents is how much the average woman makes for every dollar a man earns, and that figure is actually much lower for women of color. Frustrating much?
Nicole Smith, the chief economist at Georgetown’s CEW, told Marketwatch: “For decades we have been sold a story that if you go to school, get an education, do the best that you can academically there’s potential for you to be the best that you can be and be anything that you want." But the reality, she continued, is “it appears as if women can’t win.”
Well. I’m off to put myself in more crushing student loan debt just to get on equal footing with my partner. Wish me luck!