In Texas, the gender pay gap is still in full force. Women in Texas made 70 cents for every dollar that men made in 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Women working in and around Austin didn’t earn much more than the state average. Based on a Texas Tribune interactive map, in Congressman Lamar Smith’s district, which includes UT as well as rural areas to the west of Austin, women earn 68.9 percent of the median annual income. In Congressman Michael McCaul’s district, women earn 75 percent of what men earn. And in Congressman Lloyd Doggett’s district, women earn 73.5 percent of what men earn.
According to Christine Williams, professor and chair of the department of sociology, this wage gap would be even higher if we included all workers, both full-time and part-time. And although women clearly get paid less for their work as compared to men, this doesn’t seem to be indicative of men having greater expertise in their fields, since women have higher college graduation rates than men.
In a 2011 report on college completion, the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA found that 18 percent more women than men have college degrees in the young adult population between ages 25 and 29. And, just this past Thursday, the Texas Tribune reported that more than 23 percent of females who finished eighth grade in 2001 received a post-secondary degree within six years of graduating from high school, compared to only 16 percent of males. Even at UT, the student body is slightly more female than male — 51 percent of the undergraduate population is female and 49 percent is male.
So why the pay gap? After all, if women are earning college degrees at a higher rate than men, shouldn’t females be better compensated than males in the workforce? Williams explained that sometimes the gap occurs because “men and women have different majors, so even when women get higher degrees, they tend to be in lower paying fields” — an answer that seems to be quite popular when the gender wage gap issue arises.
But this isn’t necessarily the case. Engineering, computer science and business graduates have the highest average starting salaries by discipline, according to a recent article by Forbes. The McCombs School of Business is only slightly skewed toward male undergraduates — with a 55 percent male and 45 percent female undergraduate body as of last spring. At the Cockrell School of Engineering, though, males substantially outnumber females. Only 24 percent of undergraduates there are females.
But the wage gap persists, even in business professions. A 2012 Bureau of Labor Statistics report comparing the median weekly earnings of full-time and salaried wage workers by occupation and sex showed that female CEOs earn $1,730 per hour while males earn over 30 percent more — $2,275. Female financial managers earn $988 per hour while males earn 42 percent more — $1,405. The trend continues through most professions in the industry.
It’s been close to 51 years since U.S. President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into federal law. For a state whose laws enshrine the concept of equal opportunity, our gender wage gap is downright shameful. And it’s bad business, too. Rather than letting the most qualified people lead, we’re giving in to sexism year after year after year. No Texan should take this inequality in stride. As future leaders, administrators and policy makers in Texas, we need to eliminate the wage gap once and for all.