Pay Parity Paradox.

by Denise Berger


In the “Sexism” article published in April 2008, Conde Nast Portfolio cites that advancement among women to gain parity with men in salaries, promotion to top-level jobs and board room involvement has not just stagnated but it is slipping! Catalyst research tells us that only 2.6% of Fortune 500 companies CEOs are female; only 6.7% of Fortune 500s top-earners are women; and 14.8% of Fortune 500 board seats are occupied by women. Catalyst also calculates that it will take 73 years for women to achieve board room parity alone. Seventy-three years - that brings us to the year 2081. To put it in perspective: current elementary school kids will have retired by that time! And yet, the pipeline is there: 50.6% of management and professional positions are occupied by women and more than 50% of college graduates worldwide are female.


On a similar point, why is it that women are still paid about $.74 to a man’s $1.00 in the USA? Isn’t this subject alone enough to raise your blood pressure? (Add it to the list of stressors for women!) The Wall Street Journal recently cited the following statistics: "Women, overall, are substantially lagging behind men in pay. Full-time female employees earned 77% of all men's median wages. Breaking it down in terms of race - Asian-American women earned 78% of the median annual pay of white men; white women earned 73%; black women, 63%; and Hispanic women, 52%." The difference in pay is still apparent even with 20-somethings earning 20-25% less than men at the same educational level.


A surprising common misperception causing this devolution on the path to parity is that women have, in fact, "arrived" and therefore there are no more barriers to success; we are only limited by our own individual talents and limitations we impose on ourselves, just the same as any man. However, the playing field is not level, for a number of reasons: childcare and family caregiver notwithstanding, bias and discrimination; harmless, but nevertheless influential, informal male social networking; and, of course, inherent biological differences between the sexes.