The scenario repeats itself every day: Someone suffers a serious medical event, such as a stroke, heart attack or injury from an accident and they’re brought to an Emergency Room for immediate care. If they make it to a facility in time, their odds of survival greatly increase, due to the expertise and care of the physicians on staff. It’s meaningful, difficult work that requires years of education and training.
Nearly half—specifically over 41%—of all doctors who treat patients in Emergency Rooms are women. Yet those female doctors are paid approximately $110,000 less per year than their male counterparts, according to a 2022 report from Doximity. They have an equal amount of education and years of experience (sometimes, even more). They’re saving the same amount of lives and giving the same prescribed care … yet in the eyes of their employers (or the system that their hospital adheres to), their skills appear to be worth less.
The pay gap doesn’t just impact medical professionals, either. In real estate, male brokers make 60% more than female brokers. In the financial sector, the numbers aren’t much better. There are also wide pay disparities in the sales, insurance and transportation industries … truly, the list goes on.
The United Nations estimates that worldwide, women make an average of 77 cents to every dollar that a man makes doing the exact same job.
On this International Equal Pay Day, we want to bring this issue to the forefront to examine why it continues and explore what can be done to accelerate equality in today’s world.
Why is there a gender pay gap?
There are a number of contributing factors that are at the root cause of unequal pay.
Education. Each year, 140 million girls are denied the right to study or attend school. Without the foundation of education, girls grow into women who are less qualified to enter the workforce. If they work outside the home at all, the jobs they get will likely pay less and offer little room for growth.
Familial Obligations. Because women are overwhelmingly the primary caregivers for children in their families, the lack of access to affordable childcare and inadequate paid time off for maternity leave, force many mothers to remain in the home instead of returning to work after the birth of a child. This can cause a setback when they do return to their workplace, having lost valuable time to grow in their role and seek opportunities for advancement.
Discrimination. Due to archaic ways of thinking that are sometimes built into cultural norms— therefore systematically remain in practice—there is sexism at play. Examples include female employees being asked to do additional work, outside of their position’s responsibilities (such as loading an office dishwasher) for no additional pay, while their male counterparts in the same roles aren’t expected to do the same.
Misconceptions. False limitations sometimes prevent women from gaining work they are capable of, especially in physically demanding jobs. Hiring managers may assume the role should be filled by a man, not realising the female candidate has the ability to perform the same task.
Equal Pay International Coalition
EPIC—the Equal Pay International Coalition—is the only group in existence that works at the regional, national and global level to support stakeholders to take steps that will reduce the gender pay gap.
Through advocacy campaigns, equal pay conferences and events, they take actions designed to spark media coverage and increase public awareness. Their Sustainable Development Goal target to reach by 2030 is ‘8.5’, which aims to “achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value.”
How to Help
- Earlier this month, we announced the 2023 recipients of The Cynthia Lennon Scholarship for Girls. Since 2015, we’ve awarded 55 scholarships to worthy students in Ethiopia, Kenya, the United Kingdom and the United States. Providing opportunities specifically to female students helps balance future pay disparities by empowering emerging female leaders, and inevitably strengthens the communities in which they will develop their careers. To donate toward our 2024 scholarships, or become a member of The Muse, which contributes monthly exclusively to this fund, start here.
- There are also groups such as The Equality Trust (UK) and Equal Rights Advocates (US) who independently fight for equal pay and welcome support from the public.
Though the pay gap remains a worldwide issue, there are places that give us hope. Rwanda implemented policy in the wake of their genocide, which has resulted in a more narrow gap; The government of Iceland enacted the world’s first equal pay law in 2018.
Those countries both took steps in the right direction, but as a planet, until the very need to observe International Equal Pay day no longer exists, we have a long way to go …