While accepting her Oscar for best supporting actress in the drama “Boyhood,” Patricia Arquette used the spotlight to talk about the issues of wage equality and equal rights.
In her acceptance speech, Arquette said, “To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s right. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”
In 2009, the Department of Labor authored the foreword to a CONSAD Research Corporation report on the wage gap that Arquette referenced. The Department of Labor stated “the raw wage gap continues to be used in misleading ways to advance public policy agendas without fully explaining the reasons behind the gap.”
The report found there were three major components attributing to the wage gap: women were more likely to seek part-time work, women tend to leave the labor force to care for their families and women prefer to work for companies with more family-friendly policies (traditionally, occupations offer a trade-off between pay and leniency of policy).
According to the DOL, this means “[T]he differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.”
The study concluded that “it is not possible now and doubtless will never be possible, to determine reliably whether any portion of the observed gender wage gap is not attributable to factors that compensate women and women differently on a socially acceptable bases, and hence can confidently be attributed to overt discrimination against women.”
Essentially, the CONSAD report says that it cannot definitively prove that discrimination doesn’t exist (it’s not possible to prove a negative) — but the wage gap “may be almost entirely” due to the different decisions made by men and women. In fact, most of the study is dedicated to explaining those different choices made by men and women and their impacts on wages.
In 2012, the American Association of University Women published a study regarding the wage gap. The AAUW found “women’s choices—college major, occupation, hours at work—do account for part of the pay gap. But about one-third of the gap remains unexplained, suggesting that bias and discrimination are still problems in the workplace.”
This corroborates the study by the DOL and CONSAD. The AAUW merely suggests discrimination may be a problem, although most of the gap can be accounted for by taking the choices made by women into consideration.
In addition to demonstrating the gender pay gap is due to different choices made by men and women, some studies also show that women tend to be doing better than their male counterparts.
A study conducted by Reach Advisors showed that in 2008, young, single, childless women out-earned men in 39 of the largest 50 cities. The 2009 DOL foreword stated women comprise 51 percent of high-paying, high-management positions. A 2013 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed women fared better than men in regards to earning growth at every level of education.