Six Unfortunate but Real Reasons Women Are Paid Less Than Men

And four things that can be done about it.

Photo | Shutterstock

Photo | Shutterstock

To all women: Yes, you are paid less than men.

There is no doubt. I see this with my clients. I see this at other companies I visit — both large and small. You are being discriminated against. You are being treated unfairly. You are still not considered equals in many workplaces — not everywhere, but in many, many companies. Why is this still the case, even in 2014? From my observations of the business world, I can list these six common reasons cited:

1. You may get pregnant and leave.

Some men think (and rightly so) that hiring a woman (no matter how competent) comes with the increased chance that she may ultimately have children and leave the company. Many women do this. That’s because the burden of parenting still mainly falls on them, even in these so-called “modern” times. And if you return to the workforce once your kids hit elementary school, you’ve missed many critical years of experience. From an employer’s point of view, this diminishes your value.

2. You miss work more than men because of your family.

Even if you’re back on the job right after maternity leave, you tend to miss time for doctors visits, school meetings, daycare and all the other things that a mother attends to because most mothers have their heads screwed on better than most fathers, and are more willing to sacrifice their work for the sake of their children. This is the right thing to do. But it also diminishes your value in employers’ eyes.

3. You may be replacing another low-paid female.

Some women take over jobs that are traditionally female (i.e. nurses, administrative, etc.) where the salaries are already at a historically lower level than men and where many companies are not willing to absorb the significant increase at one time to bring things up to parity. In other words, you’re starting your job at a salary disadvantage mainly because of precedent.

4. Your boss is a dick.

He’s a guy. He likes being with other guys. He’s not as comfortable around women. He makes comments about women behind their back. He has maturity issues. Or – he may be a she. Some female bosses resent other upwardly mobile females or think they haven’t paid the same kind of dues. Whatever … he or she doesn’t think you’re as valuable as a man and that’s reflected in your paycheck.

5. Your boss is old.

Most companies today are being run by men in their mid 50s to early 70s. These are men that were raised in the 1960s and ’70s, when their fathers were guys like Don Draper and their moms like Harriet Nelson. Need I say more? They are old school and the have old-school opinions about women. The bad news is that they’re living longer. The good news is that 10,000 of them are retiring every day and a younger, smarter generation is taking over.

6. You may not care.

Some women don’t care. They’re not into fighting over a salary increase. They’re happy with their job, balance the day, clock out at 5 p.m. and are working to live, not living to work. These women aren’t going to rock the boat, and they’re no help at all for the upwardly mobile woman who wants more respect and compensation.

This is why you’re not making as much as men. This is wrong. I don’t condone this. I don’t practice this. But it’s reality. I see it every day.

So what do you do? How do you make more money? How can you get your compensation on par with a man? The good news is that you have options. And I don’t mean waiting for President Obama to give you a raise. You have more options than you did even 10 or 20 years ago. You can:

1. Start your own business.

There are more than 9 million small businesses owned by women and many venture capital firms that finance women entrepreneurs who are changing the world. Being your own boss is riskier, but it may give you more control and more earnings potential. And speaking of risk …

2. Reconsider education and risk.

Besides the impact on value that comes with leaving the workforce to raise children, economist Mark Perry argues that women who are better educated, or who at least take more economically oriented majors are making money on par with men. He also says that men tend to take riskier jobs, which are higher paying.

3. Find a better place to work.

Easier said than done, I know. But the fact is that there are many companies where there are more women in management and the men in management are younger or smarter and not discriminatory and who fire people who are. Finding a company that treats females as equals with men, particularly when the paycheck arrives, is getting easier every year.

4. Have patience.

As morbid as this sounds, take comfort in the fact that the old guard is slowly dying away. That hopefully means that when my daughter turns 30 in another 12 years she will be working in an environment where the leaders were born in the 1980s and have a more modern view about women in the workplace. Things have changed a lot in the past 10 years. They will change even more in the next decade.

Yup, you’re paid less. And there are reasons why. It still sucks to be a woman in the workplace in 2014. But it’s getting better.

Follow @GeneMarks on Twitter.