The so-called salary gender gap is improving in Iowa, but a report says American women still make less than their male counterparts. Emily Martin, vice president of the National Women’s Law Center, says in most of the country, women only make about 77-cents for every dollar made by a man.
“The wage gap in Iowa is 78.5 cents, so a little better,” Martin says. “It’s about the 22nd state if you rank them from best to worst.” A center report says the national pay disparity of 77-cents works out to an average of over $10,000 in lost wages every year. At the current rate, she says it will take 80 more years before there is truly equal pay for equal work.
Martin says the wage gap exists across all occupations and education levels. “Even when you look more closely at the data and try to match men and women exactly, the same education level, the same occupation, the same hours worked,” she says, “there still remains a gap which we think really has to do with discrimination and people continue to assume that women need money less or deserve money less for doing the same work as men.”
Martin says pay discrimination is hard to identify and hard to challenge. One reason is that it’s rare to know the salaries of everyone else in your office. “And even if you do know,” she says, “there’s a real fear that your employer will retaliate against you if you complain, especially since many employers have policies that say you can’t discuss your wages with co-workers, so if you go to your employer and say, ‘I discussed my wages with my co-worker and why is he making more than me?’, you really are exposing yourself to some sort of punishment.”
Martin says the pay disparity contributes to the fact women frequently have less money in the bank to rely upon if they lose their job. Nationally, the average weekly unemployment insurance benefit paid to women was $259 a week while the benefit to men is $310.