International Women’s Day 2024

By Laura Baldwin
March 7, 2024

$61 trillion.

That’s how much working women have cumulatively lost in wages since 1967, according to a new analysis by the Center of American Progress—and that’s despite gains made as a result of the Equal Pay Act, signed into law in June 1963.

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Every time I write a post for International Women’s Day, I try to stress the importance of parity in the workplace. Of course, there’s the difference that $61 trillion could have made in the lives of families, of single mothers, and of children who went without simply because of the gender pay gap—which according to Forbes is virtually unchanged from a year ago, with women earning 83 cents for every dollar men make. For working mothers it’s even less, at just 75 cents. And the gap actually widens as women progress in their careers: 87 cents when they first enter the workforce, 82 cents during their 30s, and 74 cents by the time a woman is 45. Work remotely? Take away another 10 cents to the dollar.

And it’s an even harsher story for women of color. Black women, for instance, earn just 80 cents, while Latinas earn only 79 cents for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men.

It’s frustrating. It’s unfair. And it’s exhausting.

We’ve seen these stats for decades now, and I worry that some readers just gloss right over them, desensitized—or worse, fall back on “It’s just the way things are.” How do we get through to them in a way that resonates?

How about lost tax revenue? That directly affects everyone.

CNBC recently reported that the wage gap today costs women in the US about $1.6 trillion a year. Per the OECD, the average single worker faced a net average tax rate of 24.8% in 2022, which means lost tax revenue of nearly $400 million that year. Using that same average tax rate, if women have lost $61 trillion in pay since 1967, that’s over $15 trillion in US taxes just gone. And if we start talking compound interest lost over that time, that number balloons in a mind-boggling way.

Such a vast sum of tax money alone could’ve increased emergency services in your town, made college more affordable for you and your kids, improved healthcare for your parents, or helped strengthen the ideals of democracy abroad. Heck, it may have even filled in that pothole and saved you from a wheel realignment. Does that resonate? We’ve all lost out collectively—both as a country and as individuals—because organizations have for so long deemed the work of women as less valuable than that of men. Does that strike a chord with those who think they’re unaffected by the gender pay gap?

Because we’re all affected by it. That’s the whole point. I just wish that more people could see it, and more organizations would do something about it. Until they do, we all keep losing out.

So what can we do?

If you’re a hiring manager, you can work hand-in-hand with your people operations department to ensure pay parity across your teams. Establish a clear pay scale, and find the budget to make things right when they don’t match up. Request adjustments when you see discrepancies at merit raise time. And be sure new hires come in with salaries commensurate with your existing employees.

But it’s also important to think beyond the pay stub. How do you get more women into industries where they’ve historically been underrepresented? It’s a crucial question, especially if you’re in one of those industries. Because the more women are hired into those verticals, the more chances we have to level the playing field.

The good news is that the gender gap isn’t immutable, even in heavily male-dominated industries like tech. But you can’t solve it without making some purposeful changes. O’Reilly, the tech learning company of which I am president, is a case in point. We’ve made great efforts to bring the percentage of women in our full-time workforce to 43%, and raise the percentage of experts on our platform who identify as members of underrepresented groups to 50%—and in tech, that includes women.

But a few years ago we started thinking about how we could make an even bigger impact, so we created our DEIJ scholarship, to increase learning opportunities for members of underrepresented communities in technology. Through this scholarship program, 500 recipients receive annual all-access memberships to the O’Reilly learning platform so they can learn the skills they need to break through the industry’s barriers. And we’ve proudly continued it every year since it was established.

Have we solved the gender pay gap? No. Have we made a dent? I’d like to think so. And if everyone at companies across the country and around the world does something above and beyond to make their own dent, maybe we can collectively create the parity that ends the gender pay gap.

Just think of the positive effect it would have on everyone.

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