It is an unacceptable reality that women’s labor is chronically undervalued. The data shows that women are paid less than men even when adjusted for external factors including experience, education level, and hours worked. If John and Sally both hold the same job title, work the same hours, and come with the same education and experience background, studies show that John will be paid on average more. How much more depends on who you ask—the Census Bureau estimated in 2015 that women make 79.6 cents for every dollar that a man makes, while Labor Department data shows 82 cents.
This discrepancy is known as the gender pay gap, and it costs women and their families opportunities, independence and stability. When you look at men vs. women’s salaries overall without all things being equal, the gap grows wider due to factors like hiring discrimination, unequal access to education, and family obligations. The 4th of April is commonly known as Equal Pay Day, because on average, a woman will need to work until April 4 to earn what her male counterparts made the year before. At Danella, we find this to be unacceptable. We all need to do better.
For men and women in the construction industry, there is some very good news. It turns out that the gender pay gap in the construction industry is among the lowest of any industry studied. The details come from a report by the New York Times that tracked median pay across different industries. According to the report, women in the construction industry make 92.2 cents on the dollar of what men earn, while the median gap across industries was reported at 80%. This report tracks income by industry and not by occupation, so some of the disparity stems from the types of jobs that men and women tend to get. Women are underrepresented in management, while overrepresented in lower-paying clerical type jobs.
Merit should always determine how far you can climb and how much you earn—never gender, race, or any other factor. As such, it is our duty to achieve total pay parity. We are proud to lead the way in terms of closing the gender wage gap, but our industry can and must achieve 100 cents on the dollar for men and women’s earnings. So how do we close the gap completely?
The Lean In Initiative details several common-sense steps that companies can take to achieve pay parity. For starters, companies can conduct an internal pay audit, analyzing salaries by race and gender, to ensure that employees are being paid equitably. You can’t address a problem if you don’t know it exists, and it’s not enough to assume that everything is fine if no one is complaining—every leader in this industry needs to ask themselves the hard questions.
Another major cause of pay disparity is that women are promoted more slowly than men. Our industry as a whole needs to increase the number of women at the management level. At Danella, we provide support and mentorship for women who want to lead in our company. As we get more women at the top, more women will see the opportunities available to them and join the industry themselves.
This problem will not go away on its own, and it will not go away unless we take the responsibility upon ourselves to actively root out pay disparity wherever it exists and correct it. Our employees deserve our best efforts, and we simply cannot afford to do anything less.
This is an installment of our blog series about gender and the construction industry. Check back or follow our social accounts to be a part of the conversation.