The gender wage gap is real and plaguing our nation, and it is up to us to do something about it. 

82 cents. 

That is the amount a woman makes in comparison to her male counterpart’s dollar. It may only seem like a small 18 cent difference, but over the span of a year, that equates to a wage gap of $10,194 –– and some people say it doesn’t exist.

The gender wage gap in the U.S. has established itself as a topic of conversation. Until we realize there are multiple facets to the gap, we cannot fully understand how to fix it. 

To help, I’ve compiled the three most common questions (along with answers) to decipher this workspace truth. 

What is the gender wage gap?

The gender wage gap is when women aren’t paid the same amount as men for doing the same amount of work. The gap can be due to outside situations and/or gender discrimination (more on both later). 

To further investigate the gap, Pew Research conducted a study comparing hourly earnings of men and women. The study revealed that a woman would have to work an extra 39 days in order to “catch up” to their male counterparts.

Pay discrimination is not subject to certain demographics. Emily Blunt also experienced this when she was paid $9 million compared to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s $22 million while filming Disney’s “Jungle Cruise.” Keep in mind, they were both co-leads, meaning their job descriptions were reflections of one another.  

When such statistics are presented, it becomes difficult to brush the gender wage gap off as a myth or as unimportant. There is an obvious divide between the two salaries of men and women.

This is where controversy sparks.

How do outside experiences affect the gender wage gap?

Many people claim the gap has nothing to do with gender itself, but is used to create a narrative.Some individuals believe the gap has to do with external experiences. Let’s talk about that.

Women find themselves in many situations that cause them to take steps back within the workforce. One example is the decision to take time off work, which is typically correlated with the caring of children and family. This is done more often than men, leading to differing pay rates. 

According to a Pew Research study, Roughly four-in-ten mothers said that at some point in their work life they had taken a significant amount of time off (39 percent) or reduced their work hours (42 percent) to care for a child or other family members.”

When compared to men, these statistics drop to just 24 percent, leading to varying annual wages. 

While this can lead into another discussion about gender roles, it demonstrates that external experiences are an integral factor when discussing the wage gap. 

However, this doesn’t mean gender discrimination can be thrown out altogether. What about the women who don’t have children? Or those who refuse to take time off? Are they automatically dismissed from the gender wage gap conversation? The answer is no, as we still see inequality rising within their pay, proving the gap is real in more than one area.

In a study comparing female graduates to male graduates working within the same post-grad fields, “childless women [earned] 93 percent of what their male peers [did].” 

If these women weren’t taking time off to care for children or family members, as the common rebuttal goes, then what created the divide?

Another external experience often used to debunk the gap is occupational decisions. Women often take on lower-paying careers, such as teaching and nursing. However, even within these lower-paying fields, the pay gap can still be seen between women and men.

The New York Times depicts this by alluding to the culinary industry as, “female food preparers earn 87 percent of what male food preparers earn.”

People can try and squash the gender wage gap through outside situations, but peering into those distinct experiences, gender discrimination is still prevelant.

Why Does It Matter? 

The gender wage gap isn’t always noticed due to specific stages of life, differing perspectives and being uninformed. So if it’s only affecting certain individuals, why should everyone care? 

We should care because this is our everyday life. This is our world. This is proof that society sees gender as a basis for discrimination. 

Unless we are okay with women being paid less than men for doing the same job, then we must come together in unison and make noise.

The process of awareness must also occur at a much more rapid pace, as the wage gap has “remained relatively stable over the past 15 years,” according to a Pew Research study. 

If we don’t speed up the process, we won’t see equal pay until 2059 (that’s 40 years away!).

And if that’s not enough motivation, I’ll leave you with this quote from equal pay activist Lilly Ledbetter.

We still are not paid equally,” Ledbetter said. “And if you believe that it’s a myth, do the math. Unequal pay hurts women. It hurts their families. And it hurts us all. You and I have to continue fighting for equal pay for equal work. I get up each day with that on my mind, because I need to make a difference.”