In the United States, the gender pay gap is the difference between the average earnings of male and female workers. It has been measured in a number of ways, but most commonly it is expressed as a percentage: the percentage of women who earn more than men. Each year in March, Women’s History Month, discussions about the gender pay gap are brought to the spotlight. This year, a Twitter bot has called greater attention to the ongoing issue of the pay gap among British companies by responding to said companies’ performative statements of support for Women’s History Month with data exposing their poor track record on paying women equally.

What is The Gender Pay Gap?

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According to the Pew Research Center, the gender pay gap is defined as the difference in median hourly earnings between men and women. In 2020, women earned an average 84 cents for every dollar a man earned, though the gap is smaller among younger age groups. Though the gap has decreased since the 1980s, when it was at 67 cents to a man’s dollar, Pew reports that it has remained relatively steady since the early 2000s.

What is the Racial Gender Pay Gap?

The statistic of 84 cents to a man’s dollar is merely a broad average; many women of color earn even less than that. Racial and gender bias in the workforce combines to contribute to the underpaying of women of color. Latina women earn 57 cents for every dollar earned by white men, Native American women earn 60 cents, and Black women earn 64 cents.

While Asian women earn an average of $1.01 for every dollar a white man earns, that statistic leaves out Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women who overwhelmingly make the least amount of money within the AAPI group. Additionally, some ethnic groups within the Asian community make less money than others; Nepali women who earn an average of 54 cents to a white man’s dollar are an example.

Overall, the statistics show that overwhelmingly, women make less than white men. The gender pay gap reveals the existing inequalities within the workforce, even as women are working more similar jobs to men. Furthermore, the gender racial pay gap calls attention to the importance of intersectionality when looking at ongoing gender inequality in America.

How Is The Gender Pay Gap Measured?

The gender pay gap is measured by averaging what all women who work full time earn year-round compared to what all men working full time earn year-round. As an average, the 2020 estimate of 84 cents for every man’s dollar does not directly compare men and women performing the same jobs. However, the number is still significant because it points towards the broader issues in areas such as education that prevent many women from attaining high–paying jobs overwhelmingly held by men.

What Causes The Gender Pay Gap?

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The American Progress policy organization highlights three key explanations for the wage gap– occupational differences, differences in hours, and family caregiving.

Women are more likely to work in female-dominated industries, which tend to be underpaid. Women also make up the majority of minimum wage workers in America. Certain occupations have worse wage gaps than others, such as real estate, where men earn over 30% more than women. There are very few jobs that pay women more than men, and when they do, the difference is much smaller— female respiratory therapists, for example, make 6.4% more than men in the same field.

Parenthood, and the fact that many women have to undergo unpaid maternity leave in the United States, contributes to disparities in hours worked (and subsequently income earned) between women and men. Women are overall more likely to take time off to accommodate caregiving, creating an increased wage gap after a woman has her first child. This pay and hours worked disparity due to childcare are not seen among men. Cultural, gendered expectations of who is meant to take care of a child contribute to this.

How Does the Gender Pay Gap Reveal Gender Discrimination in the Workplace?

Though gender-based discrimination has been illegal since the Civil Rights Act, gender discrimination impacts the jobs women have access to and how they are paid within those positions. The issue isn’t who’s more qualified either— even though a higher percentage of women have advanced degrees, women continue to earn less per hour at every education level.

Women aren’t just choosing to work in lower-paying, female-dominated jobs for no reason— many women are socialized to believe that those are the only career paths attainable to them. The everyday discrimination that women face in the workforce also can drive them away from higher-paying, male-dominated jobs. For example, the Economic Policy Institute reports that 63% of women in the science, engineering, and technology sectors have been sexually harassed in their workplace.

What Are The Effects Of The Gender Pay Gap?

The gender pay gap is an important indicator of continuing inequality between men and women, even as gender discrimination is often pushed as something of the past. The wage gap follows women from job to job— as many companies use past salary as an indicator of what to pay a new hire, women will continue to receive less throughout their careers. This, in turn, may prevent women from progressing as far in their careers financially, and spending more of their lives working. It also can make them have less money for retirement or erase the ability to retire altogether.

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What is the Gender Pay Twitter Bot?

During Women’s History Month (March) 2022, the account @PayGapApp began replying to British companies’ tweets in support of women workers with their gender pay gap. Though the data is only limited to British companies, the tweets of @PayGapApp have been instrumental in calling out the hypocrisy of many organizations publicly claiming to value their female employees during Women’s History Month, only to pay them less year-round.

For some companies, the gap is wider than Britain’s national average— for example, billion-dollar consulting company McKinsey has a pay gap of 22.9%. The pay bot found that Irish airline Ryanair had a shocking 68.8% gap in what men and women are paid hourly within the company. Even a company directly selling towards women, lingerie retailer Boux Avenue, was exposed to have a 31.4% wage gap.

Who Created the Gender Pay Twitter Bot?

Marketing copywriter Francesca Lawson and her partner Ali Fensome, who is a software developer, have been revealed as the team behind @PayGapApp. In an interview with Politico, Lawson explained that she created the account due to the prevalence of companies’ performative Women’s Month statements that weren’t backed by real change. She stated, “The Pay Gap App bot is inspired by the frustration of feeling like we can’t challenge a lot of the nice words and see what substance there is behind them… .So we thought, how can we get that data in front of people so that they can better understand what’s going on behind the scenes?”

How Does This Twitter Bot Help Address the Gender Pay Gap?

The Twitter Bot crucially points out that performative actions do not equal actual progress. Though every company highlighted by @PayGapApp has produced statements of support for the women working in their organization, the bot reveals that they continue to treat women workers unequally. Public statements may create the perception that a company cares about equality, but until women in the workforce are actually paid the same as their male counterparts, these statements are empty promises. Performative activism only creates the illusion of inclusivity, and @PayGapApp peels back the curtain to reveal the institutional changes many companies still need to address in order to value their female employees.

What do Companies Need to Do To Fix the Gender Pay Gap?

As @PayGapApp highlights, the issue of gender inequality in the workforce can’t be solved through words alone. Policy and company culture has to change to ensure that all women achieve equal pay to men. To truly honor Women’s History Month, companies should be investigating their internal practices to make sure women are treated equally, not posting empty statements on Twitter. When companies make a commitment towards achieving equal pay, their Women’s History Month tweets will actually be meaningful.