DeBlog: Do Women Really Get Paid Less Than Men?

By Jason DeRusha, WCCO-TV

Tonight’s Good Question is challenging a statistic we hear often. A Women’s Foundation and the Humphrey Institute found that overall, women still earn 76 cents for every dollar a man earns.

It’s shocking. Offensive. Women and men should be getting paid the same amount for the same jobs, right?

House Republicans are looking to remove a requirement that women and men get paid the same in government jobs. They argue it’s a paperwork burden on local governments.  Democrats are outraged.  Pat Kessler’s covering that story for the 5 p.m. news.

But what does that statistic really mean? Do women really get paid less than men — for the same job? And why is there a disparity?

We’ll look at the factors tonight at 10.

What’s your experience with this — do you think women get a raw deal? I may use your comments in tonight’s Good Question.

More from Jason DeRusha
  • AndyG

    Uh, because we still live under Patriarchy? Just a hunch.

    • PMG

      Ted F;
      The 1800’s called……

    • cindy g

      Ha ha, it’s mentally not mental. Is that an example of you superior intellect?

  • Kassie

    As a government employee in a union job, I do not get paid less than my male counterparts. Pay is based on job class and, mostly, time in class. While sometimes someone may come in from the outside at a higher place than someone else, mostly it takes away the gender differences. Also, takes away difference due to race, disability, sexual orientation and religion.

  • Joey

    In my experience this hasn’t been the case. I’m a guy, so maybe that dilutes my perspective, but in the companies I’ve been a part of I’ve definitely seen parity in pay. Maybe it’s an industry- or company-specific thing?

    I wonder if the time many women are taking off to be at home with their kids (or even cutting back to part time) impacts this metric. My wife quit her job when we had our twins a year ago and probably won’t go back to work for at least another year. I’m sure that will set her back compared with those who’ve been in the workforce over the same amount of time.

    • Tough Stanley

      Joey, you sound like a woman, I bet your wife makes you sit down to pee.

      • Joey

        I have no idea what point you’re even trying to make.

  • Joey

    Always a troll, especially on a topic like this!

    • Kyle A

      You are the troll Joey, I agree with Tom

    • Joey

      Kyle, you agree with gross over-generalizations about a lack of work ethic in an entire gender? Then we’re on two different pages.

  • Tess of St Paul

    I would assume that part of it stems from the fact that women are more likely to take time off for the birth of children or cut back hours to raise children. This affects their ability to gain experience and move up the “corporate ladder.”

    It could also come from the fact that a woman with a stable partner (like a husband) might stop working full-time and take a lesser paying postion, so she can continue to gainer a wage/income but not need to pay the expensive of daycare.

  • Jennifer Kane

    Two problems. First, we don’t always know we’re getting paid less, since you’re rarely ever sitting around with co-workers saying “hey…let’s all talk about how much we’re getting paid here.” This happened to me right out of college – two college grads w-similar experience and yet the guy they hired at the same time as me was making a lot more. Once I found out, I took it up with my boss and negotiated for more. And second, we don’t ask for it. I’m sure that other college grad was getting paid more because he asked for more and I didn’t. And I think there’s sometimes a wee bit of passive sexism at work with this issues. Rather than “right the wrong” and say, “hey we should pay these two employees the same for doing the same work,” I think some hiring managers are still inclined to think, “sweet. I just came in under budget. It’s not my problem that she asked for so little.”

  • Bob Moffitt

    Beats me. I see no reason why a woman should get paid less than a man for the same work. I also see no reason why Republicans would question that, or work to overturn a common sense law. Keep it up, GOP. The Dems will be back in no time, at the rate you are going.

    Oh, and Tom P., I hope your boss is a woman, and reads your comment here. Good luck with that next raise….

    • Joey

      I don’t think Republicans are questioning whether they should be paid the same. They’re trying to help reduce the administrative burden on local governments of complying with the requirement. Whether or not the burden outweighs the benefit is a separate debate, but I don’t think it’s fair to say Republicans are questioning pay equity just because they’re attempting to remove an administrative step. That’s my take anyway (and no, I’m not a Republican).

  • Chad Jones

    I am not really sure if Women get less then Men when it comes to the same type of job…. I do know that the kinds of jobs women can get without a degree pay less then the kinds of jobs men can get without a degree…. Example with a family I know…. the husband works as a pipe fitter and never had any experience before he had got the position that he is in…. But the wife could not walk in and get the same type of position with no experience…. she would have to go to college… and prove herself first…. For a uneducated woman the job potential in the same pay scale as men is a lot less….

  • Shannon

    My husband and I graduated from the same program at the same time and are in the same field. Today, I make half the amount he does. Why? I’ve moved to follow his career, so I haven’t had the opportunities for advancement like he has…..and I’ve taken time off to have kids.

    • Jason DeRusha

      So Shannon- are you upset about the wage disparity – or is it worth it for you?

      • Shannon

        It irks me, but I wanted kids so it seemed like the right decision–and still seems it was the right decision. I would do it over again. But… still irks me. Is there a solution for equal pay? I don’t know.

  • justin

    Having the same job doesn’t mean you should be paid the same. You have to factor in education, experience, tenure, etc. That said, all things equal, people should obviously be paid based on the quality of work they provide. Laying out a statistic like this with no backing information on how it was gathered isn’t a good idea.

  • Jessica

    In my experience, it seems that it might have to do with how women negotiate for themselves (or in many cases don’t negotiate) when they first receive a job offer, how they present themselves at annual reviews etc… I see many women around me who do not fight for what they believe they deserve. My male counterparts are much more likely to share and show their worth openly while women tend to say things like “oh, it was a team effort” or “it was nothing” when in fact, they deserve recognition. I think this does affect the perception of the woman in the workplace. Confidence is key.

  • robinmarty

    pay disparity is a fact, even when all other aspects of a job are weighed equally (job type, hours, etc)

    • Carl

      Male doctors are more willing to work overtime, shift work and over night and ER positions.

      Female Doctors tend to work in clinics with business hours. One reason being they are taking care of their own children.

      Women are more likely to be awarded custody of children in among divorced doctors.

      • hanna

        dear carl,
        do you have sources for this information or are these just opinions?
        using this logic, men doctors would hardly see their families. women take care of their own children, but is a man not required in the creation of a child? it should not be up to the woman in the relationship to always be there for the child. both partners should take equal amount of care of the child. it is unfair to place that responsibility on one person with a career and goals. also, careers are determined by the individual to fit their individual needs. if the individual was a woman working overtime shifts, would she get paid the same amount as her men counterparts? the statistics presented by jason and other commenters lead me to believe that assumption to be false.

  • Carl

    Women often choose indoor M-F 9 to 5 jobs, over labor intensive or dirty jobs, overtime and shift work.

    Sometimes cubical jobs pay less because they have so many women applying for them.

  • Bill

    If anything, my experience points in just the opposite direction. When I graduated from college (early 90’s), it was pretty well known and statistically proven that new women graduates in my field (engineering) could get, on average, a significantly HIGHER starting salary than men. The most-frequently stated reason? Businesses were wanting to have an appearance of being gender-neutral in hiring practices in positions which are typically thought of as “male”, and were willing to pay a premium to attract women to reinforce that appearance. Not sure if that’s still the case, but it does make sense. Women in technical fields remain a scarce commodity, and supply-and-demand creates premium pricing.

    As far as some of the studies indicating that men still get paid more than women for the “same work”–I haven’t looked at all the studies, but I do remember looking at some of them a few years ago, and their definitions of “same work” left a lot to be desired. Some of them said that all jobs which required a four-year college degree are equivalent and “same work”–when we all know that that’s not true. People with Engineering and Business degrees tend to make more than Arts and Humanities degrees–and men, for whatever reason, tend to gravitate to the higher-paying degrees more than women. If you look at pay job-by-job, experience-level-by-experience-level, etc., you’ll find far more equity than those reports state.

    Lastly, there’s still a perception among many people of men being the “primary” bread winners, while women’s income is secondary/supplemental. As such, when it comes time to determine which partner in a family is going to put in extra hours at work, or make the extra effort to earn a raise, it still tends to be the man who does this more often than not. And in that situation, it only makes sense that those who put forth those efforts are typically higher rewarded by employers.

    Want a great book to reference on the subject for your story? Check out “The Myth of Male Power”, by Dr. Warren Farrell. He’s respected enough on the subject to be one of the few males to ever be elected to the Board of Directors of the National Organization for Women. Check it out!!!

    • Tom Pagenkopf

      Thanks Bill for your intelligent reply!

    • robinmarty

      um – Farrell was a board member before he spawned his own “men’s rights” movement where he focused on the the idea that men were being demonized, mistreated and discriminated against because of the feminists.

      and the perception that men are the breadwinners stems partially from the fact that they get paid more, so if someone has to stay home it tends to fall to the woman.

      its a cycle

  • Fiona

    Majority of executive-level positions, board positions are still held by men, they set compensation levels and are in positions of authority to grant raises. Even if a woman is in that position they can’t appear to give favoritism so often seem more harsh on fellow female employees to avoid appearance of impropriety. There remains institutional sexism.

    • Bill

      First of all–in my experience, that’s constantly becoming less and less the case. New board positions in the companies I’ve worked with are approximately equal men and women.

      Second–yes, many top board positions are held by men–men who are 60-70 years old, who have been in their industries for 30+ years and have the experience and abilities to merit those positions. You don’t see nearly as many women in those roles, simply because the equality revolution is such a recent event, relatively speaking. The women who have entered the system since that revolution are still in their 30s and 40s. The women in their 50s and 60s were raised in an era where this sort of advancement simply wasn’t pursued by women, and therefore they never strove to achieve that level. As those older male executives retire, more and more of those roles will be filled by women, simply because more and more women will have the experience level needed to complete those jobs. For now, they’re being treated–and paid–as equals to the men of similar skills and experience. Nothing more–but also nothing less.

      • robinmarty

        bill, please provide data to back up your comments. Thus far, women are not actually being moved into leadership roles as men retire, as you claim.

      • Bill

        data–(And no, I don’t care to disclose on this board who my current and former employers are):

        Current employer–Board positions to become available since I started, either via retirement or attrition: 2. Quantity of those positions filled by women: 1.

        Previous employer–Board positions to become available while I was with the company, either via retirement, attrition, or board expansion: 9. Quantity of those positions filled by women: 4. Of the 9 positions, 3 were filled by men under 50, three were filled by women under 50, one was filled by a man in his 60s, one by a man in his 70s, and one by a woman in her 50s. Supporting my point–in the older generation, top positions are typically ‘old white men’, simply because those are the people from that generation who most typically have the necessary experience. But in the younger generation, the genders are basically equal.

  • Bill

    OK, one other point–

    Take a look at any list of the worst jobs in America. Concentrate on those which take into account not only pay, but hours, opportunity for advancement, career longevity, chance of incurring job-related injury, chance of job-related death, exposure to weather/elements, job-related stress, etc. On most, you’ll find jobs like dairy farmer, fisherman, miner, pro athlete (yes, the money is good–but the career longevity and chance of injury are horrendous), garbage collector, lumberjack, roofer, sailor, EMT, etc. What do all these have in common? They’re all 95%+ male. Society still protects women from having to take these jobs.

    The point? The so-called ‘glass ceiling’ is, for the most part, gone. But the ‘glass floor’ remains. If women, as a whole, want a greater portion of the top-of-the-line jobs, they need to realize that they also need to take a greater portion of the bottom-of-the-barrel roles too.

    Taking the bad with the good–now THAT would be equality!

  • Jeff Saari

    Jason, I think you need to understand how statistics are easily twisted. If you can deny the facts based upon the 15 years of research in this article than I would say go ahead with your argument. Otherwise, you don’t have a leg to stand on.

    • Bill

      Great reference, Jeff! Particularly interesting facts pointed out in the article:

      * women who have never had a child earn 113 percent of what men earn
      * there are some 80 fields where women earn more than men
      * about 80 percent of the jobs lost in the recession were lost by men
      * males are exponentially more likely to become incarcerated or homeless
      * males disproportionately sacrifice much of their prime years in service of the military
      * the male-to-female ratio on college campuses is now about 40/60
      * approximately 93 percent of workplace fatalities are men
      * among unmarried college-educated men and women between 40 and 64, men earn nearly 15 percent less

    • AndyG

      Uh, Robin already pointed out that this “study” is BS. There’s no “twisting” of anything here. It’s a stone-cold fact: women make less than men, and there’s no reason that they should…especially since they make up (at least) half the American workforce. Of course, ‘American Thinker’ doesn’t have an agenda, or anything…

      • Jeff Saari

        Did you bother to read the article to find the basis of why women earn less than men?

      • Jeff Saari

        and the American Thinker’s agenda is to disprove liberal falsehoods. Empirical data goes much further in an argument than wishful thinking.

      • Jeff Saari

        I’m going to have to resort to stealing a quote from somebody else but I think it fits the argument here. If women were paid less than men then WHY would ANY company hire another man if they could reduce their payrolls by 20%.

  • Bill

    AndyG, sure, ‘American Thinker’ doesn’t have an agenda.

    Just like the site Robin is using to refute it, ‘’, is also agenda free…

    • AndyG

      Yeah, they have an agenda: equal rights for women.

      What’s American Thinker’s agenda? Advancing an ideology. Totally on par, Bill.


  • MinnObserver

    Part of it in the secrecy surrounding salaries in the private sector. In the public sector (as well as many unionized jobs), there is a transparency – everyone knows what the rate of pay for a journeyman is going to be. In a non-unionized private employment setting, salaries are secret and everyone is kept in the dark. I suspect we’d see a move toward more pay equity if women knew what the men around them were earning. It’s one thing to know that men earn a certain percentage more in the workforce as a whole; it’s something entirely different to know that the equally qualified – but annoyingly lazy – goof-off in the next office is earning more than the women in the office.

  • Carl

    Male doctors are more willing to work overtime, shift work, over night and ER positions.

    Female Doctors tend to work in clinics with business hours. One reason being they are taking care of their own children.

    Women are more likely to be awarded custody of children in among divorced doctors.

  • Bill

    Even Jason’s linked report was by the “Women’s Foundation of Minnesota & the University of MN Humphrey Institute’s Center on Women & Public Policy”.

    Yeah, no agenda or bias there….

    • Jason DeRusha

      Bill – if you have problems with the study, I’d love to hear specifics.

      • Jeff Saari

        Jason, if you were interested in real journalism you’d bring both sides to your argument instead of relying on the Center on Women & Public Policy. That’s akin to letting the Tobacco companies perform their own analysis of what effects cigarettes have and just going with that. Don’t pee on our legs and tell us it’s raining. Most of your readers appear as naive as you are but thank goodness there are people like Bill and me out there that don’t buy your load of garbage.

      • Jason DeRusha

        I will say the vast majority of studies indicates there is a gap. As to why there’s a gap – that’s up for debate.

      • Jeff Saari

        Jason, if you’re going to present a fair debate then why don’t you include studies from outside the Center on Women & Public Policy. Don’t try to piss on our legs and tell us it’s raining. It’s akin to letting the Tobacco companies do their own studies on the effect of cigarettes. Really? Most of your readers seem naive enough to buy your garbage but thank goodness there are people like Bill around.

      • Bill

        To be honest, I have yet to read this specific one in any detail, and definitely won’t have time to do so before your 10pm broadcast. (I suspect that’s why you’re asking the question–to get a sound bite.)

        But for obvious reasons, there is a tendency for groups like NOW, any women’s political group or foundation, any college/university’s women’s studies program, etc., to employ people, fund studies, and generate reports which take a predominantly “woman-as-victim” stance.

        My comment wasn’t so much to say that the “Women’s Foundation of Minnesota & the University of MN Humphrey Institute’s Center on Women & Public Policy” isn’t credible, so much as to point out that there’s no legitimate reason for RobinMarty and AndyG to dismiss either Dr. Farrell or as being biased, but to then claim that either or the study you linked are “stone cold fact”, simply because those sources happen to agree with their cause while the other sources don’t.

      • Jason DeRusha

        Jeff, you’re a sweetheart.

  • Bill

    The smartest thing the women of America ever did was get the ERA defeated in the early 70s. If it had passed, they’d have had to accept equality–both the good side and the bad. Now, they can strive for equality in situations where that’s a legitimate improvement over the status quo, but in cases where things are discriminatory in their favor, they can claim victim status to assure the continuation of the status quo. They get their cake and can eat it too.

  • Victim Du Jour

    John Stossel tackled this question on 20/20 a few years back, and interviewed a founder of the National Organization for Women.

    It’s too easy to over-simplify statistics to push a political agenda.

  • Jeff Saari

    So i read a little more into the Womens Foundation and their Mission and Goals. Never here them stand up for the likes of women like Sarah Palin, Condi Rice, Michelle Bachmann, etc. Its not a unified women’s movement, it’s all politics. If they really cared about women’s rights they would be more concerned with the way some of the women in this country were treated as compared to others, say, the former Speaker of the House.

  • Jeff Saari

    Here Jason, you’ve got a few more hours to prepare for a fair journalistic review, rather than an activist approach. Another source for you:

    Quote: In the United States, men earn more, on average, than women. The median man working full time in the United States earns $741 a week, compared to $600 a week for the median woman.[1]

    This gender gap is not the result of rampant discrimination. Rather, it exists because men and women often work in different jobs and have different qualifications. When work experience, education, and occupation are taken into account, the average woman makes 98 cents for every dollar earned by a man.

    • Jason DeRusha

      Hey Jeff– no one is arguing that the pay gap is due to rampant discrimination. Check out the story at 10!

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