Women have been fighting for equal rights for centuries. In the US, the women’s rights movement can be traced back to the 19th century, when activists first started agitating for the right to vote. After all this time, there are still problems plaguing gender parity. In particular, women simply don’t earn as much money as men.
Ironically, this is especially true in fields like financial services. In fact, the finance sector has the second-largest pay gap of any industry in the US. Women earn just 67% of what men do in the field, despite remaining in their jobs just as long.
But why is this the case? There are several reasons finance still faces gender discrimination. Here’s what you need to know about the pay gap in finance and how to fight back.
Women, Finance, and the Pay Gap
The finance sector’s pay gap isn not just a matter of a man earning more than a woman in the same role. The 1963 Equal Pay Act made that illegal unless one person performed better or had more seniority.
Unfortunately, the EPA has not been a panacea. Since directly paying women less than men is illegal, the wage gap persists for three subtler reasons.
First, the industry is more likely to promote men than women. It takes female finance employees nearly a year longer to be promoted into management than it takes men. Since managerial roles are usually paid more, this leaves women earning less than men with the same amount of experience.
Second, the promotion gap compounds dramatically in higher positions. Just 11% of all financial companies have at least one female chairperson or CEO. That means 89% of finance sector companies have almost entirely male boards and C-suite staff, and at a minimum, men at the helm. The number of women in the upper echelons of finance is minuscule, so they rarely receive C-suite-level compensation.
Third, many women get dropped from the talent pipeline over time. Mothers are more likely to drop out of the workforce and find it difficult to return. Despite it being illegal, many employers often discriminate against employees who are also mothers (including expectant and new mothers).
Combined, these three factors lead to a finance sector in which women are are increasingly growing in number, but do not receive equal opportunities.
The Effects of the Gendered Pay Gap on Women
Pay gaps are not just unfair.. They affect women’s lives, families, and opportunities. In many industries, the term “pay gap” has been replaced by the term “opportunity gap.” It’s not that women aren’t receiving equal pay for equal work; it’s that women never have the opportunity to do that work in the first place. That opportunity gap can go on to affect generations of people.
How to Fight Pay Gaps Effectively
If you believe you are facing a pay gap or an opportunity gap in the finance sector, statistics show you are probably right. You deserve the same salary and promotions a man would receive in your place. However, fighting the pay gap takes work.
You need to find out if you’re being passed over in favor of men. Pay attention to the makeup of your company’s leadership. If you see a trend of men being promoted to managerial roles while women remain in lower positions, make a note of it. Talking to your coworkers is an excellent way to learn more about promotion and compensation trends in your company.
You also need to prepare to argue your case. Some studies suggest men are promoted earlier because they are more likely to ask for the promotion. Studies show that broadly, two-thirds of men have asked for a promotion, while only half of women have taken that step. If you believe you are qualified for the role and promotion, organize your data, accomplishments and reasons and simply ask your boss for the promotion. You might be surprised by the response.
Should You Consider Legal Action?
If your company has a trend of promoting men over women or paying men more than similarly qualified women and has not taken steps to fix it, they may be violating the Equal Pay Act. The Act does nothing to prevent employers from promoting based on merit. However, it does prevent discrimination, which includes a demonstrable trend of promoting one gender over another.
That is when you should consider legal action. A company that refuses to examine discriminatory practices is more likely to ignore your complaints. You may need to file a civil lawsuit against your employer to force them to follow the law. You will both make the workplace fairer for women and potentially receive damages for the discrimination you’ve faced.
Moving Finance in the Right Direction
Gender equality still has a long way to go. In fields like finance, where there are still significant problems, it will take work to improve things. You can help do some of that work by holding your employer accountable for their practices.
If you’re facing discrimination in the finance sector, reach out to an experienced employment law attorney. They can help you understand your options and start your battle for fair pay. The fight for gender equality is by no means over, after all. Working with the right attorney can make all the difference.