Everyone knows that men make more money than women do.
The wage gap, it's called. What to do about it is the issue. In New Zealand, they're trying something new. Counting. And reporting.
According to Minister for Women Jan Tinetti, new legislation will require businesses with more than 250 employees to report their gender pay gaps in order to encourage greater equity in the workplace.
Some 900 companies will be subject to the new reporting requirement, which will eventually be extended to as many as 2,700 firms employing more than 100 workers.
"Change is needed," she said. "Requiring companies to publish their gender pay gap will encourage them to address the drivers of those gaps and increase transparency for workers."
New Zealand, far from perfect, has done better in this regard than we have.
According to Bloomberg, New Zealand has reduced the gender pay gap in the public sector to a record-low 7.7%; in that sector, half the senior management jobs are held by women.
In the private sector, where some 200 companies voluntarily report, the gap was 9.2% in 2022. Tinetti explained that other nations such as Australia, Canada and the U.K. have gender pay gap reporting in place and that the move to require such reporting in New Zealand "is part of the government's ongoing commitment to make New Zealand an equitable and desirable place for people to live, work, and do business."
Here in the United States, by contrast, stagnation is the rule.
Women earned 20.3% less than men in 2019.
By 2022, the gap widened to 22.2%.
The regression-adjusted wage gap, which has been stagnant for two decades, actually widened a little bit, from 22.6% to 22.9%, driven by men's higher wages, especially at the top of the wage distribution.
Among workers, women are more likely to graduate college than men and are more likely to receive a graduate degree than men — but they are paid less than men at every educational level.
And the wage gap increases with educational achievement.
Black and Hispanic women are paid the least; for them, the wage gap is biggest, by far.
The swift progress of the 1980s and 1990s in closing the wage gap has slowed to a crawl. Minimum wage sets a floor so the gap is smallest at the bottom, but as wages increase, so does the gap.
Economists point to a number of factors including job segregation, the devaluation of "women's work," societal norms and discrimination.
Is it really such a mystery?
In mid-career, women balance children and family.
Help them with that balance and women will soar.
Penalize them for it and they will not soar. Treat all women as mothers and you will find that even the women who are not mothers will not soar.
This is not rocket science.
Women reaching for the top need support and encouragement.
As you get to the top, discrimination becomes far more subtle and subjective.
It's no longer a matter of an objective test.
It turns on the subtleties of who is comfortable with whom, of the inherent biases that lead people to duplicate themselves in choosing the most qualified.
That's where keeping track comes in.
It's the least we can do.
Counting. It forces us to take a second look.
Ask a second time.
Is this really the best we can do?
What's wrong with this picture?
Because, as they have recognized in New Zealand, where the picture is better, there is still something very wrong with the picture of a gender wage gap in place.
Susan Estrich is a politician, professor, lawyer and writer. Whether on the pages of newspapers such as The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post or as a television commentator on countless news programs on CNN, Fox News, NBC, ABC, CBS and NBC, she has tackled legal matters, women's concerns, national politics and social issues. Read Susan Estrich's Reports — More Here.