What is the gender wage gap?

While exact statistics vary, it’s been shown that when you compare the earnings of all full-time working women in the U.S. to all full-time working U.S. men, women earn 78 cents to every $1 that men earn.

When you break up the stats by race, industry or other factors, the numbers are even more staggering:

> Black women are paid just 64 cents, and Latina women earn 56 cents, for every dollar earned by white men

> Women who work retail sales earn 70 cents to the dollar, and female lawyers earn 83 cents to the dollar

> Women make up 70% of teachers across the country, but female teachers earn 87 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts

Source: American Community Survey

What’s causing the wage gap?

The topic of equal pay may seem simple. After all, don’t all people deserve to be paid equally for equal work? But it’s become controversial over the last few decades. As a result, there is a lot of disagreement about the cause of the gender wage gap in America — and if it even exists at all.

At 78 Cents Project, we focus on statistics and ideas that we have found to be true in our everyday, professional lives. 


1. The negotiation gap is real.

Today’s female first-time hires negotiate a better offer 24% of the time, while their male counterparts negotiate 42% of the time.

By not negotiating on day one, women could lose tens of thousands of dollars of earning power over the course of their careers — all by the time they walk into their first day on the job.


2. Unconscious hiring bias is real.

Ever felt surprised you didn't get an interview, then wondered if it had anything to do with being named Suzy? This STEM study shows that you aren't crazy... the system is just crazy flawed. The study showed that applicants with overtly female names were not only found to be less competent than their male counterparts, their salary was recommended to be $4,000 less as a result. This is one of just dozens of examples of name bias in the hiring process. 

Your age and life stage could also be working against you. 75% of women in this Stanford tech survey said they were asked about their marital or family status in an interview. The implication was clear — employees without children can work longer hours and are preferred across the industry… even though hiring managers aren’t technically allowed to discriminate against working mothers.


3. The confidence gap is real.

Many people talk about the ambition gap — which posits that women go into lower-paying fields and are therefore paid less than men — but recent studies show that the ambition gap may need to be re-framed as the confidence gap.

When polling future grads, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University* found that men believe they deserve $80,000 a year after graduation, while female grads believe they deserve $64,000. That’s a difference of 20% in perceived value, rate out of the gate. 

This confidence seeps into the job application process, too. A Hewlett Packard internal survey showed that women tended to apply for a job when they had 100% of the qualifications, while men often applied when they had just 60% of the job experience it required.

Source: Women Don't Ask, Princeton Press

It’s time admit: the wage gap is real, too

For American women, the process of applying for and getting a job can feel like a miserable game of Mario Kart  — the minute you navigate past one roadblock, another appears.

Maybe it’s a hiring manager who seems to prefer male candidates.

A well-meaning who told you you’d be “lucky” to get the job, leading you to accept the position without negotiating.

A nagging feeling that you would embarrass yourself if you apply for a job above your current experience level.

The roadblocks to employment for American women are real, and they’re leading to one clear outcome.

Women in America make just 78 cents for every dollar earned by American men. It's on all of us to end the wage gap. Are you ready to get to work?