Cedar Crest College newspaper since 1923
By Stephanie Karpeuk, Staff Writer
On May 16, Cedar Crest College seniors will be graduating and entering the work force. But women at all phases of their careers, including the Cedar Crest students just starting out, are concerned about the gender pay gap.
In the 2014 State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama said women are paid 77 cents for every dollar men make for doing the same job.
This statistic does not tell the whole story. For most women, there are many more complicated problems than 77 cents on the dollar.
A number of variables exist that can prevent us from understanding precisely the differences in earnings between men and women. For example, women generally tend to work fewer hours than men. According to the Pew Research Center, 26 percent of women work part-time, compared to only 13 percent of men. Additionally, even among full-time workers, men work more—26 percent work more than 40 hours per week, compared to 14 percent of women.
The disparity in hours worked could be related to family and the household. According to a 2014 study by the Pew Research Center, mothers experience more career interruptions than fathers. In order to care for a child or other family member, 42 percent of mothers versus 28 percent of fathers reduced work hours, 39 percent of mothers versus 24 percent of fathers had to take a significant amount of time off, and 27 percent of mothers versus 10 percent of fathers had to quit a job.
Gabrielle Johnson, a graduating senior English major at Cedar Crest, sees her lack of interest in having children as an advantage. “It’s just logical as well as appeasing to my own personal preference, because it’s just easier to sustain a single unit,” she said.
Eileen Brumitt, Writing Center coordinator, said, “I can’t see being professionally successful and having a family in my particular career path. It just doesn’t work for me. So we’re in this horrible feminist loop of we can’t have it all, like we always talk about. But the women I know who kind of have it all are the ones who make compromises in their career choices.”
There are also a disproportionately low number of women in leadership positions, which have higher salaries. In a report from January of this year, the Pew Research Center found that only 5.2 percent of Fortune 500 CEO’s are women, and Fortune 500 boards are comprised of only 16.9 percent women. We fare slightly better as college presidents, accounting for 26.4 percent in that category.
Women are also underrepresented in government, with 20 percent in the U.S. Senate, 19.3 percent in the House of Representatives, and a mere 10 percent of governors.
Tina O’Toole, a senior business and English major, also raises the issue of women’s negotiation skills, which is often cited in discussions of the pay gap, and which Brumitt and Johnson also discussed. All three women believe that, in general, women tend to be less willing to negotiate for higher salaries than their male counterparts.
“I feel like since I work at a women’s college, I have to accept a lower salary than I would anywhere else,” said Brumitt. “Any other college that I could work at, I would be making more money, but I think since we serve women, we’re almost expected to accept less.”
Of herself, however, O’Toole said, “I feel confident enough in myself and my abilities, and I know that I can be assertive and sell myself, so I’m not concerned about that. And I know that I can walk into a room and let people know exactly why they need me.”
O’Toole relates this confidence to her education here. She said, “I feel like being here at Cedar Crest has pushed me as a leader. I’ve taken part in things, like Ethics Bowl, that terrified me. I had to go in front of all these executives, and most of them were men, but I took charge, and they listened.”
Despite the challenges, there are reasons for optimism. According to the Pew Research Center’s statistics, the number of women in leadership roles, though still disproportionately low, has increased in recent decades, and the pay gap is getting smaller, albeit slowly.