By TENILLE GOODMAN
With graduation looming, many seniors are worried about finding employment that offers a decent salary, especially in today’s difficult economic environment.
On March 22, Hilary M. Lips, professor and chair of the psychology department at Radford University presented an hour and a half-long lecture in Lee Hall about the current job market entitled, “The Gender Pay Gap: Where Do Women Stand Now.”
Lips, an award-winning author of several books and articles on both psychology and gender issues, revealed that the search will be especially difficult for female graduates.
Lips began the presentation with a slide of a cartoon illustrating the issue. In it, a man says to a woman: “I’ve never said this to a woman before, but here goes: we’re not paying you enough.”
Addressing a small gathering of students, professors and local residents, Lips said that she wanted to start her lecture off on a light note in preparation for some rather dismal information.
“For more than 60 years, there has been a stubborn gap between [male] and [female] wages,” Lips explained.
Although the salaries of women in comparison to those of their male counterparts have improved, they remain unequal. According to data from the U.S Census Report in 2009, females 15- to 24-years-old make an average of 11.8 percent less than males do within the same age range.
Lips said some employers justify the salary difference by reasoning that women “make choices that result in systematically lower pay,” such as the type of industry they choose to work in and the difference in the hours worked beyond full-time
Although these observations appear valid on the surface, Lips argued that they fail to account for the glaring gap between male and female wages.
“How to measure the gap isn’t neutral. There is subtle discrimination,” she said.
Most assume that a college education for women would make their salaries comparable to those of men, but it has not done so, according to Lips. She explained that women with a bachelor degree only earn 75 to 80 percent of what men earn with the same level of education.
“More education certainly raises wages, which is nothing to sneeze at,” Lips said.
But the inequality remains. Many companies consider men to be better long-term investments because they are more willing to enter into careers that require long training, and they have a willingness to work longer hours, according to Lips.
In addition, employers consider women to be riskier investments because they assume that marriage and children are inevitable in a woman’s future, thus inhibiting her ability to work at the same level as her male counterparts.
“It is believed that women tend to seek careers where they can spend more time with their families. However, women’s choices may be influenced by societal expectations about women’s roles in caring for family,” Lips said.
As such, many women find jobs with non-monetary elements such as flexible hours, teleworking and on-site day care to be better options than they do alternatives offering higher salaries
According to a recently reviewed 2005 forecast analysis, the gap between men and women’s salaries is not closing.
“It doesn’t appear that [the problem is] going to fix itself,” Lips explained.
Lips remained cautiously optimistic about the future salaries of women in today’s global economy, as long as women stay informed and to feel comfortable negotiating their salaries.
“Being aware [of the gap] is critical,” she said. “Knowledge is power, and women should not accept the lowest possible salary.”