Jessica Powers | Mar 08, 2023

The gender pay gap is both complicated and controversial. There are a lot of things to take into consideration when talking about what the wage gap is and why it exists. 

Further Reading:16 Unconscious Bias Examples and How to Avoid Them in the Workplace


What Is the Gender Pay Gap?

Put simply, the gender pay gap is the difference in wages or salary between men and women; specifically, it refers to how men earn more money, on average, than women in the workplace.

In order to understand what the gender pay gap means, and how the numbers come about, it’s important to know that there are two distinct methods used for calculating gender pay gaps: controlled and uncontrolled. 



The uncontrolled (or unadjusted) gender pay gap is calculated by taking the ratio of median earnings of all women to all men, regardless of industry, skill level, education or any other type of diverse demographic that can affect an individual’s income. 

The uncontrolled gender pay gap has made national headlines because as of 2022, women only make $0.82 for every dollar men make. While that is a startling statistic, it’s important to note that women are also, unfortunately, less likely to hold more senior roles with higher salaries than men. There are also differences in opportunities and barriers that limit certain demographics from advancing in their career, which is called the opportunity gap. 

How to Calculate the Uncontrolled Gender Pay Gap

  • Median earning of women : Median earning of men
  • *Does not include factors that contribute to the opportunity gap



The controlled (or adjusted) gender pay gap takes into account factors that differ between men and women in the workplace. Such factors include job title, experience level, industry and location. While there are a number of additional factors that affect an individual’s opportunity and privilege in the workforce, this calculation is much more accurate in comparing the differences in pay among men and women in similar jobs. 

The controlled gender pay gap, which is much less talked about, is actually only about $0.01, meaning women make about $0.99 for every dollar a man makes. While this calculation accounts for some aspects of the opportunity gap, there are a number of factors, like race and ethnicity, that are not accounted for in either calculation.

How to Calculate the Controlled Gender Pay Gap

  • Median earning of women within a specific industry, job title, experience level and location : Median earning of men within the same industry, job title, experience level and location
  • *Includes factors that contribute to the opportunity gap, such as job title, experience level, industry and location.


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Evolution of the Gender Pay Gap

The gender pay gap is constantly in flux but continues to progress over time. Let’s take a look at how the gender pay gap has evolved over the years, where it stands now and what predictions have been made about the future state of gender pay equality in the workplace.  



Over the past 60 years, the gender pay gap has been slowly and steadily shrinking. Back in the 1960s, women earned between 55 and 60 percent in median annual earnings compared to men, whereas between 2010 and 2015, that number increased to between 77 and 80 percent. However, that’s still more than 50 years of women earning at best $0.80 to every $1.00 men earn.  



In 2022, women made 82 percent of what their male counterparts earned. This isn’t a very big leap from 20 years prior, when women made 80 percent of what men did. 



While men and women are inching toward equal pay for the same roles, there is still a lot of work to do in terms of women breaking into male-dominated industries and breaking through the glass ceiling

And while improvements are made year over year, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report — which indexes global economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and political empowerment — predicts that it will take approximately 135 years to close the global gender gap. The report states that the global gender gap for economic participation and opportunity specifically, will take about 267 years to close. 

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Jobs That Require College Degrees Contribute to the Gender Pay Gap 

Although women have surpassed men in overall college enrollment and graduation rates, the stark differences between the genders in terms of what fields they study has remained. For many people who are willing and able to attend college, what they study plays a significant role in the career they intend to pursue after graduation. Such differences in degrees influence career trajectories and therefore different income trajectories. 

While college degrees are certainly helpful tools for advancing academic knowledge base before entering into a full-time career, it shouldn’t be a major factor employers consider when reviewing job applicants.

As of 2022, only 37.7 percent of the U.S. population over age 25 has a bachelor’s degree and another 10 percent hold an associates degree. This means jobs that require candidates to attain a college degree to even apply, are eliminating over half of the population — many of which simply don’t have the opportunity or money to afford the exorbitant cost of higher education in America.

Of the people that spent thousands on a degree, nearly half believe it wasn’t worth it either because they didn’t use their degree in their job (40.4 percent) or because they couldn’t find a job in the field they studied (28.8 percent). 

Another contributing factor to the gender pay gap is that men have historically dominated higher education. However, in 2014, for the first time in history, women began attaining more four-year college degrees than men, and that trend has continued. It seems logical that as more women earn college degrees, the gender pay gap will decrease as women will be paid accordingly. However, factors like women of color having less access to STEM fields, may negate that sentiment. 

More on Education28 Companies That Pay for College


The Occupational Differences Between Men and Women Widen the Gender Pay Gap 

Many people might not pursue a career in the academic field they studied, but the occupational differences between men and women illustrate a larger problem. The most common occupations held by women in the United States include registered nurse, elementary or middle school teacher, secretaries and administrative assistants, managers, customer service representatives, retail sales workers, accountants and nursing assistants. 

Whereas the occupations most commonly held by men include truck drivers, managers, software engineers, construction workers, freight and stock movers, retail workers, maintenance workers and chief executives. 

As we discovered in the controlled gender pay gap calculation, occupation plays a significant role in differences among men and women. Men consistently earn more money in both jobs commonly held by women, and jobs commonly held by men. When comparing the top 20 most commonly held roles between men and women, median weekly incomes for men can be anywhere between $100 and $700 more than women earn. And this isn’t even taking into consideration differences in managerial and seniority level between male and female employees, which we’ll get to in a bit.

The history of male and female dominated occupations and industries, however, is not entirely parallel. Trends indicate that in recent decades, women have begun shifting into historically male dominated industries, like test development engineering, automotive sales, technical sales, architecture and physics. 


Sexism and Discrimination in the Workplace Affect the Gender Pay Gap 

Another factor contributing to the gender pay gap is discrimination in the workplace. There’s no doubt that men and women experience work and life differently, including discrimination. Twenty-three percent of women report being treated as incompetent in the workplace. And 16 percent report experiencing microaggressions, while 15 percent feel they have less support for their jobs than men. 

As if that wasn’t bad enough, men are also twice as likely to be chosen for a position — regardless of whether the hiring manager is male or female. Even when women do go into fields and occupations dominated by men, they continue to face challenges and barriers that inhibit their ability to grow in their careers at an equal rate to men.


Women Don’t Get Raises and Promotions as Often as Men 

The barrier to higher level roles female professionals face is commonly referred to as the glass ceiling. In brief, the glass ceiling metaphor refers to the hierarchical impediment that inhibits women, as well as other marginalized groups, from reaching elevated professional success. Because women face invisible, but evident barriers to reaching senior and C-suite level roles, they struggle to earn salaries reserved for higher roles. 

The disparities begin with promotions early in career paths. In 2022, for every 100 men that were promoted to managers, only 87 women received similar promotions. And only 82 women of color were promoted to managers out of 100 men. Most careers are linear, meaning in order to reach senior level roles, you need to first grow into a managerial role.

There is a significant difference in the percent of men and women in entry level roles compared to executive roles. At entry level, men (both white men and men of color) make up 52 percent of the workforce compared to 48 percent of women (white women and women of color).

The rift continues to widen at each level, with men making up 65 percent of senior roles and 75 percent of C-suite roles, compared to the 35 percent of women in senior roles and just 24 percent of women in C-suite roles. And the separation is much much more profound for both women and men of color. Women of color only make up 4 percent of C-suite roles, and men of color only make up 13 percent. 

It also doesn’t help that women don’t get raises as often as men. Women ask for raises just as often as men do, but only receive a raise 15 percent of the time, while men receive raises 20 percent of the time after asking, according to one study from Industrial Relations.  

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The Unpaid Work of Women Increases the Gender Pay Gap 

Many women spend a large part of their time outside of the office working. And by working, we don’t mean working from home on tasks related to their paid job, but rather unpaid tasks related to supporting and caring for other people. This is also referred to as invisible labor

One study of 393 married or partnered mothers investigated this invisible labor and found that 90 percent of women are solely responsible for coordinating their entire family’s schedule, 70 percent regularly completed and delegated household chores as well as party planned and 78 percent are the parent who knows and communicates with their kids’ teachers and school admins.

To account for all of these additional tasks added to women’s plates either by choice or by gendered expectations, Amy Westervelt created an Invisible Labor Calculator to see how much unpaid labor that isn’t accounted for in the gender pay gap but should.

The list of labor tasks include cleaning, childcare, party planning, family errands, landscaping and more. Anyone can use the calculator to see how much money each week should be attributed to the work they do but isn’t. Unfortunately, there is a lack of research around exactly how much money women forfeit on average due to unpaid labor. 

As we’ve mentioned, the gender pay gap only considers the overall pay gap between men and women. However, other factors, such as race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, age and family status also contribute to where an individual stands on the gender pay gap, all of which we’ll cover below. 


Women of Color Make Less Money Than Men and White Women

An even more pressing issue is the disparity in pay between white men and women of color. This is illustrated by the fact that Latina women only made $.58 for every dollar white men made in 2021 and Black women only made $.63 for every dollar earned by white men. 

The gender and racial pay gap is decades behind the overall gender pay gap. However, companies are in a position to hire and promote women and underrepresented groups in order to expedite these predictions and make the workplace equal and as diverse as the communities it serves. 

Read Next: Addressing the Challenges Facing Black Women in Tech


LGBTQ+ Individuals Earn Less 

An individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression may also contribute to their ability to earn equal pay. That said, one study shows the impact might be minimal for tech workers; the wage gap for LGBTQ+ individuals in the tech industry is between .3 and .4 percent. 

The overall wage gap for LGBTQ+ workers is greater when looking outside the context of the tech industry. LGBTQ+ workers earn around $.90 for every dollar made by non-LGBTQ+ employees, according to an analysis from the Human Rights Campaign.

Further Reading: 27 Companies Supporting the LGBTQ+ Community Every Day


Fathers Hold More Senior Positions and Make More Money Than Mothers

An individual’s family status may also affect their ability to earn an equal salary. This is especially true when it comes to the differences between working fathers and mothers. Men are 7 percent more likely to be a boss or a manager at work. For men who are also fathers this number jumps up to 35 percent. Only 11 percent of working mothers are reported to work in management positions. 

 The Ascent gathered data from the U.S. Census Bureau and found that — when compared to men with the same family status — married women with children under 18 only earn 79 percent of men’s weekly earnings and unmarried women with children earn 82 percent of men’s weekly earnings.


The Gender Pay Gap Widens as Women Get Older 

The gender pay gap is also found to vary by age — and even widen as women age. Women ages 20 to 24 make approximately 89 percent of what men in that range make, meanwhile women ages 55 to 64 only make 75 percent of what men in that age group earn. 

More on AgeismAgeism in the Workplace: Statistics to Know


The Gender Pay Gap Varies by Country

It’s not surprising that the gender pay gap varies around the world. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development conducted a major study that broke down the gender pay gap by country, and they found that Belgium had the lowest gender pay gap at just 1.2 percent and Korea had the biggest gap at 31.1 percent. The United States ranked as the seventh largest pay gap at 16.9 percent.


Each U.S. State Has Varying Gender Pay Ratios

An AAUW study looks at states in the U.S. that both had low gender pay gaps and implemented laws to protect equal pay. They then ranked states based on protections, occupational segregation, defense/rebuttals, remedies, procedures and preventative measures — all of which you can learn about for each individual state. 

The best state for gender pay gap and equal pay protections is Vermont 91 percent gender pay ratio. Wyoming came in 50th with a gender pay ratio of just 65 percent. 


The Gender Pay Gap Varies Between Major U.S. Cities

A lot of states within the U.S. are quite large, and some include several major cities while others are mostly small towns. These factors also contribute to how equal pay is calculated geographically. The AAUW looked more closely into the differences and found that of all the major cities in the U.S., Miami, Florida came in with the best gender pay gap ratio at 91 percent and Detroit, Michigan, had the largest gap at 72 percent.

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