There's More to Equality Than Equal Pay - OZY | A Modern Media Company

There's More to Equality Than Equal Pay

There's More to Equality Than Equal Pay

By Niamh Ni Mhaoileoin

Business man higher up stairs than business woman


Because young women are closer to pay parity than ever before, but they still don’t feel equal — so it’s not just about salary.

By Niamh Ni Mhaoileoin

You’re a woman in the workplace, fought hard to earn a top spot in your firm, and you’re paid just as well as, if not better than, your male colleagues. You feel equal, right? Apparently not.

Millennial women earn 93 cents to every dollar earned by men, but they still see it as a man’s world

What gives? 

First, while it’s great news that millennials are closing in on pay parity, they’re not quite there yet. And while young women may be earning just 7 cents less on the dollar than men, the difference jumps to 16 cents for the average woman. Making matters worse, women’s pay has been shown to decrease relative to men’s — and history will probably not spare millennials.

But even young women, who are closer to the mark than ever before, are reporting that they don’t feel equal.

Matching your colleagues’ pay grade no longer stands as the single most important measure of parity. Millennials, both male and female, have a different understanding of success than their parents and grandparents. Fifty percent rank doing a job they enjoy as extremely important, compared to just 40 percent of older adults. And only 18 percent of millennials attach the same importance to having a fat pay packet.


So could it be that the pay gap — which for decades has been the primary indicator of workplace inequality — just doesn’t much matter anymore?

Amid all this discussion, we might be missing a more central question: How do you measure equality in something as intangible as happiness?

One potential answer comes from a report by the Pew Research Center, which tells us that women aren’t winning the happiness race. Although women between 18 and 34 have come closer to pay parity than ever before, they still see barriers ahead.

So what’s behind young women’s perception that they’re not getting treated the same as their male colleagues? Well, you’ve heard it from plenty of corners in the past year or so — from Slaughter to Sandberg and back again. Now the researchers confirm: This intangible happiness quotient may have to do with women’s lower level of confidence and comfort in the workplace. 



Believe further changes are needed to achieve gender equality


Believe men earn more than women for doing the same work


Believe that society favors men over women

And that’s not all.

  • Among a diverse range of factors, a 2011 survey found that one in four women experience sexual harassment in the workplace, so while pay may be closer to equal, a more threatening form of discrimination remains endemic.
  • Moreover, social research consistently points out that success in women is negatively correlated with likability, so many fear they’ll be disliked as a result of doing well. In Delusions of Gender, psychologist Cordelia Fine highlights the social exclusion of professional women, drawing particular attention to the golf course and strip club as exclusive male social domains. 
  • And then there’s the professional cost of motherhood, which remains a central concern for young women. Nearly 60 percent of millennial women believe that being a working parent limits professional advancement — compared with just 19 percent of men who consider it an issue. They may be earning more today, but if women choose to start a family, they face an overwhelming likelihood that their careers will take a harder hit than those of their husbands and male colleagues.

It should be cause for celebration that, all things being equal, young women are closing the professional gap. But apparently all things aren’t equal — and it might be time to advance the conversation and start comparing more than our paychecks.

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