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Myth Busting the Gender Pay Gap

A senior program advisor at the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program details and busts five myths about the gender wage gap.

Research reports
2015 – The Gender Wage Gap: 2014 from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
2015 – How the Wage Gap Hurts Women and Their Families from the National Women’s Law Center.
2015 – Equal Pay Laws State by State from AAUW
2015 - The Gender Wage Gap by Occupation 2014 and by Race and Ethnicity from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

2015 - An Unlevel Playing Field: America’s Gender-Based Wage Gap, Binds of Discrimination, And A Path Forward from National Partnership for Women & Families (press release).

2015 - The Status of  Women in the States: Employment and Earnings from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
2015 - The Simple Truth About the Gender Pay Gap from AAUW.
2015 - The Gender Wage Gap: 2014; Earnings Differences by Race and Ethnicity from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
2015 - The Gender Wage Gap by State and Congressional District from AAUW
2015 – State-by-state wage gaps – for women overall. African American women, Latinas, Asian American women from National Women’s Law Center.
2013 - While occupational choice is said to account for some of the wage gap, studies continue to show women earning less than men in the same occupations. A report by Guidestar USA shows women earning significantly less than men at nonprofit organizations, as reported by David Cay Johnston. Johnston's message to married men: "Your working wives are getting shorted on pay and that means your family has less money than it should."
2013 - The Gender Wage Gap: 2012 from the Institute for Women's Policy Research shows it will take 45 more years to close the gap.
2013 - The Wage Gap Is Stagnant in the Last Decade from the National Women's Law Center.
2013 - State-by-State Gender Wage Data: AAUW gender wage gaps by state and Congressional districts.
2013 - Wage gaps by state and by 50 major metropolitan areas from the National Partnership for Women and Families.
2013 - Wage gap for women overall and for African American and Hispanic women from the National Women's Law Center.
2013 - Advancing Equal Pay Enforcement: More Effective and Transparent Procedures for Investigating Pay Discrimination from OFCCP.
2012 - Graduating to a Pay Gap by the AAUW reports the gender wage gap a year after graduation from college.
Full report (pdf)
Press release
2012 - The Gender Wage Gap By Occupation from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research shows that women’s median earnings are lower than men’s in nearly all occupations.
2011 - White House report Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being, addresses women’s present role in family life, education, employment, health, and crime in American society.
2011 - The American Association of University Women's State Median Annual Earnings and Earnings Ratio by Gender, 2009.
2011 - Women  of Color Policy Network's brief, Wage Disparities and Women of Color.
2010 - AAUW report "Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics" and wage gaps in those fields.
2010 - Center for American Progress interactive map shows career wage gaps by state.
2009 - Analysis by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research shows that women earn less then men, whether they do the same job or different jobs.
Full report
Press release
2009 - GAO report "Women's Pay" shows gender wage gap in federal workforce diminishing but still exists.
Full report
2007: Behind the Pay Gap (pdf), by the American Association of University Women, reports the gap exists as early as one year out of college. Press release.

2007: Inequity in Women's Collegiate and Professional Sports (pdf), issued by the Women's Sports Foundation. College and professional sports continue to provide unequal funding for women.

2006: "The Best and Worst State Economies for Women" (pdf), issued by the Institute for Women's Policy Research.

While women's wages have risen in all states, in terms of inflation-adjusted dollars, since 1989, the typical full-time woman worker does not make as much as the typical man in any state. At the present rate of progress, it will take 50 years to close the wage gap nationwide.

2006: "AAUP Faculty Gender Equity Indicators 2006," a report issued by the American Association of University Professors, shows continuing disparities between male and female faculty, particularly at research universities. It raises questions of why, after 30 years of efforts to provide equitable opportunities for men and women faculty members, there should be any differences in their career outcomes and what can be done to avoid continuing this situation.
2006: The Maryland Department of Labor's Report of the Equal Pay Commission (issued 9/30/06) revealed "wage gaps based on both gender and race in the State, particularly in the private sector." The Commission was assisted by the Institute for Women's Policy Research, which conducted a study on wage disparities in Maryland. IWPR reported: "More than one-fifth of the difference in women's and men's earnings cannot be explained by differences in their education, potential work experience, job characteristics, or other measurable factors."

2005: The American Association of University Women (AAUW) Educational Foundation reported that nationally, college-educated women earn only 72 percent as much as college-educated men, a wage gap of 28 cents on the dollar. In every state, a persistent and significant gap exists between the earnings of college-educated, full-time working women and college-educated, full-time working men.

The AAUW Educational Foundation’s Gains in Learning, Gaps in Earnings: A Guide to State and National Data is an online resource that examines these discrepancies. It was prepared in partnership with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). The resource features:

  • An interactive map for all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia showing the earnings ratio between college-educated women and men who work full time, year round
  • Detailed reports for four profile states (California, Texas, Michigan, and Georgia) selected to reflect geographic, demographic, and economic diversity
  • AAUW’s answers to five frequently asked questions about university and college women
  • College degree attainment by race and ethnicity
  • An online press kit with links to the report and related AAUW resources.
2004: Unequal pay takes a significant toll on working women and their families, reports the Institute for Women's Policy Research. "Still a Man's Labor Market: The Long-Term Earnings Gap" finds women's total earnings over their prime working years average only 38 percent of what prime-age men earn due to a combination of lower pay, more part-time work and time out of the workforce to care for children. The typical prime-age working woman earned $273,592 between 1983 and 1998 while the typical working man earned $722,693. Press release.
2004: A Census Bureau report, "Evidence From Census 2000 About Earnings by Detailed Occupation for Men and Women," shows men earning more than women in all 20 of the highest-paid occupations for both sexes as well as in all 20 of the lowest-paid. Overall, among full-time, year-round workers, women's median earnings were 74% of men's, the report shows.
2004: The Institute for Women's Policy Research issued a report on Equal Pay Day titled Women's Economic Status in the States: Wide Disparities by Race, Ethnicity, and Region which shows that women are paid 68 cents for every dollar white men get. Press release.

2003: The General Accounting Office's Oct. 2003 report, Women’s Earnings, shows the pay gap is real. Women working full-time today earn an average of 80 cents for every dollar that men earn, even when accounting for demographic and work-related factors such as occupation, industry, race, marital status and job tenure. This 20 percent earnings gap cannot be explained due to differences in work patterns or histories.

2002: A study by the National Women's Law Center, "Title IX and Equal Opportunity in Vocational and Technical Education: A Promise Still Owed to the Nation's Young Women," finds pervasive sex segregation in high school level vocational and technical programs across the country that results in substantial wage disparities between male and female graduates of these programs and inferior educational opportunities for women and girls enrolled in "traditionally female" programs. To illustrate the resulting wage disparities, electricians in a predominantly male field earn a median wage of $19.29 per hour, while the median wage for cosmetologists, in a predominantly female field, is $8.49 per hour.
1999: Research published by the AARP -- "The Impact of Pay Inequity, Occupational Segregation and Lifetime Work Experience on the Retirement Income of Women and Minorities" -- showed that in addition to all of its other valuable features, Social Security helps to compensate in retirement for the pay discrimination that women and people of color commonly experience while they are in the workforce.


What do you know
about the wage gap?
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The National Committee on Pay Equity and its member organizations have prepared a series of fact sheets concerning the wage gap:
Q&A on Pay Equity
History of the Struggle for Fair Pay
Questions and Answers on the Fair Pay Act
Guide for employers to analyze their pay policies
Paycheck Fairness Act
Fact Sheets from NWLC and NPWF (updated 2012)
The Wage Gap over Time (updated 2015)
The Wage Gap by Education, by State
The Wage Gap by Education
The Wage Gap by Race
Statistics about Professional Women from the AFL-CIO's Department for Professional Employees (2010)
National Women's Law Center: Women’s Lower Wages Worsen their Circumstances In a Difficult Economy 2010 (pdf)
Center for American Progress - Interactive Map - The Persistent Wage Gap 2010: shows total career wage gaps by state over a 40-year period
Top 10 Reasons for the Wage Gap
What the Opposition Says
Examining the “Women’s Choices” Theory
Profile of the Gender Wage Gap by Selected Occupations (pdf)
African-American Women in the Workplace (pdf)
Real-life Examples of Equivalent Jobs (pdf)
Inequity in Women's Collegiate and Professional Sports (pdf)
March 2007
Two Progressive Models of Pay Equity: Minnesota and Ontario (pdf)
Department of Labor 20 Leading Occupations of Employed Women