Finding Clearer Perspective on the Gender Pay Gap

Learning more about the gender pay gap

Although the following story starts with me, this story isn’t about me at all. Instead, it’s about something I learned regarding perception.

Before choosing a career in business, I was actually a chemistry major. Ready to see what a job in chemistry might look like in the real world, I started a summer internship inside a biochemistry lab with people who knew more about the inner workings of the world than I could fathom.

For the next 45 days, I lived my life looking through the lens of a microscope. I was searching for a very specific reaction to happen, and I was eager to get it right. Every day I would ask my team lead, “Is that it?” and every day it wasn’t. This went on for two weeks before he looked at me and said, “If you want to see something badly enough, you will.”

I may have let my laboratory dreams go, but that statement has persisted. It was the key I didn’t know I was missing to unlock a deeper understanding of myself and others. The statement applies to our perspectives on just about everything — including our own biases. How often do we see what we want to see? How often do we turn a blind eye to realities we’d rather not see?

Seeing the gaps in pay equity

When I think about just how long the gender pay gap has persisted as a known issue in my lifetime, it’s hard to identify the “why.” No single answer seems to be enough. Somehow, the wise words of a biochemist keep coming back to me. “If you want to see something badly enough, you will.” Part of the problem has to be perception. Not enough people see this as a real issue.

One study found that 86% of American women believe that female workers are paid less than their male counterparts who do similar work compared to 62% of American men. In the United States, women on average earn 18 cents less than men. Worldwide, women only make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes.

Whether individual perceptions acknowledge them or not, these pay inequities exist. The gender pay gap is a real issue. Just as my growing desire to see a change through my microscope’s lens didn’t change the reality, perceptions about pay equity don’t change the facts about pay equity.

My hope is that these facts are seen as real issues by even more people. Unfortunately, issues that aren’t perceived don’t get addressed. These new perspectives can clear a path to new understandings. New understandings should lead to new and better outcomes. However, new and better outcomes don’t just happen, do they? Pay equity across gender identities and all other demographics can only be realized through action. Regardless of who you are, we all must do the work to create an equitable world.

The work is wide and varied. It’s up to individuals. It’s up to organizations. It’s up to all of us. Thankfully, there are forward-thinking people and organizations already working hard to close the gaps in pay equity.

UPDATE: Closing the gap with 18 cents

18 cents. Not only is that the current gap in gender pay equity, it’s also how UKG plans to help close it. To help close the wage gap, UKG is contributing 18 cents (the current gender wage gap) for every single employee paid each year via a UKG payroll solution toward the fight for pay equity. UKG payroll solutions are used to pay over 15 million employees per year, meaning UKG will make a $3 million investment in the critical programs and initiatives described below that support the fight for pay equity.

To follow this effort, please visit our Pay Equity page for more resources and information on how UKG is taking a stance to bridge the gender pay gap.