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What is the Gender Gap?

The gender gap is universally defined as the systematic differences in outcomes that men and women receive in the labor market. These differences are translated in terms of individuals (the ratio of men to women in the labor force), salary (relative incomes or hourly wages) and types of occupations they choose. The gender gap definition also refers to gender pay gap, gender wage gap, or the male-female income difference.

Another gender gap definition according to the European Commission is the average difference between men’s and women’s hourly earnings. There is a debate on whether gender pay gap is a myth, postulated by members of the women’s movements in the 60s and the 70s, or whether it is an actual serious issue based on gender inequality and discrimination.

One of the reasons estimated to be behind gender gap is the difference between median wages of men and women. This is not a very reliable source. In fact, observable factors like education, job experience, or work hours explain only 50 percent of the wage gap. For example, career choices and number of work hours per week differ from men to women. Economists and researchers need more tools to distinguish whether gender wage gaps occur because of career choices, or because of employers’ discrimination in hiring and promotions.

What is the Gender Gap Myth?

Many studies, including one commissioned by the United States Department of Labor were in favor of the “gender gap myth” theory. Statistical studies have cited that there are reasons other than discrimination to explain the gender wage gap. Since the industrial revolution, the percentage of females entering the workforce has increased.

Eventually, the ratio of female-to-male full-time earnings rose from 0.3 to 0.5. However, what caused the static state of the female-to-male ratio is the expansion of married women’s employment. In any observable year, the ratio of female-to-male full-time earnings decreases with age and rises with education. The ratio is higher for single than married women, for women who don’t have children than those who do. It is estimated that family responsibilities have slowed down women’s occupational advancement in the labor market.

Objectors to the above theory devised three main economic theories to prove their assumptions. These theories are briefly as follows:

  1. Marginal productivity differences:

This theory explains why women are paid less in terms of the types of jobs that women occupy relative to those of men’s. Women usually occupy jobs that pay less. Salary negotiations are also said to be reduced when the candidate is a woman. Studies cited that if a man’s name was replaced by a woman’s on a resume, keeping the same experiences and qualifications, the salary would still be reduced. As a result, women get picked at the lower paying jobs and thus their lower pay is due to their lower marginal productivity.

  1. Discrimination:

This theory relies on the fact that employers discriminate against women and this is a generally accepted code. Women get paid less, despite the rationale suggesting that if women are paid unequally they would seek another job that pays higher or treats them fairer. However, since this is a generalized concept, wherever women go, they will be met with the same rationale. That is because payment is not regulated by the market, but by the employers who may have conscious or subconscious prejudices against women.

  1. Monopsony explanation:

A monopsony means that there is one large buyer with many sellers in a market similar to a monopoly. The monopsonistic buyer (the employer in our case) discovers that the profits will increase if he discriminates against a certain group of sellers (workers in our case), even if they are as productive as the rest of the workers in the company. Most employers use women’s naivete -when it comes to accepting lower salaries- to their benefit.  This explains wage differentials between equally productive women and men. 

The gender gap is a worldwide problem that needs statistical analysis and quantitative methodology to oppose. Major economies have collaborated to collect information on the status of global gender gap issues.

The Global Gender Gap Report and the Gender Gap Index

The Global Gender Gap Report was first published in 2006 by the World Economic Forum. The report covers 136 developed and developing countries. It provides a framework for examining the magnitude and the scope of gender-based inequalities around the world.

The report’s Global Gender Gap Index ranks countries according to their gender gaps on economic, political, education- and health-based criteria. It evaluates countries based on outcomes rather than inputs or means. The methodology behind the Gender Gap Index rankings is intended to design basic plans and solutions for gender gaps.

The index also summarizes and ranks specific observations on the challenges posed by gender gaps and the opportunities created by reducing them.

Gender Gap in Economy

It is called the wealth gap. It is the state of unequal distribution of wealth or income among individuals in a group or groups of people in a population or among countries.

The index also sets various criteria to analyze the economic gender gap. Among these criteria are: ratio of female-to-male legislators, senior officials and managers, ratio of female-to-male professional and technical workers, access to high-skilled employment and women’s economic participation.

Gender Gap in Politics

The gender gap in politics is measured in terms of the voting gender gap, mainly. In the index, however, many other factors are taken into consideration when measuring the gender gap in politics. Among these are: female inclusion in the political life, ratio of female-to-male seats in the parliament, and females at ministerial levels. This also includes the breadth of political issues that females advocate and the number of years a female spent as an elected head of state.

The voting gender gap is defined as the difference –in percentage- between men and women voters, assuming they both voted for the same candidate. Ever since the 1980s, many developed countries have reversed their voting gender gaps, such that women outnumbered men in voting. According to the Center for American Women and Politics 2014 Fact Sheet, among younger citizens (18-44) the female-to-male voting ratio was high in 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012.
gender gap

Gender Gap in Education

This is sometimes called “The Reverse Gap”, especially when comparing female-to-male ratios in developed countries where girls make up to 60 percent of college students. The educational gender gap is probably the most controversial of all criteria present in the Global Gender Gap Index.

Back in 1960, twice as many men as women got bachelor’s degrees. For years, women have lagged behind men in schooling and higher education. By the mid 1980s, a giant leap took place in women’s attitude to education. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, women earn about 1/3 more bachelor degrees than men. Boys are faring poorly in schools in terms of test results, dropout rates, and grades. Too many boys drop out before earning a high school diploma.

Some scholars, however, disagree with the “Reverse Gap” theory. In their defense, they mention studies that show the increased rate of college enrollments for both men and women since the 1970s. The more significant increase, though, was for women because their college enrollment rate used to be fairly poor in comparison to that of their male colleagues. Even though women outpace men in BA, MA, and PhD completion, they are still significantly behind them in MBAs and slower in earning their law and medical degrees. 

Gender Gap.. Is it an Issue?

Economists and women’s rights activists use the Gender Gap Index along with other analytical measures to help shape nations where women are treated with respect and fairness. Women’s rights issues are not just for women, but they are nerves to the skeleton of the nation. Women account for one-half of a country’s potential talent base and they shouldn’t be treated less than the other half. The gender gap, whether economic, educational or health-based, is a discriminatory ordeal that should be prohibited. This can be done through legislation and raising awareness on gender inequality issues.

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