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Can the gender wage gap fix all our problems?

I am a young woman financially struggling through college.  Money would not completely solve my issue, but a few extra dollars sure would make life a lot easier — now, and in the future.  I believe in fairness and empowerment of women, and I do not think unjust differences in salaries between men and women is fair or empowering.  We push for equality everywhere, so  why not in our incomes?  The gender wage gap is real, and it is a problem — for all of us.  

Specifically, college students are at much of a disadvantage.  Income equality is likely to be discussed in certain college courses, but some majors may never address the subject.  Lack of understanding regarding the gender pay

gap, however, doesn’t mean you won’t feel the repercussions of salary discrepancies.  It’s important to understand what influences your salary, particularly for those of us about to graduate saddled with debt. 

And as a college student, you know the debts I am speaking of. They are the beginnings of adulthood for many.  They are an era of financial obligation. They are the horrible words so many college students dread shortly after graduation — student loans.  Completely inevitable for most, yet so few are prepared to tackle them in the real world.   But when it comes to the wage gap, higher incomes lead to less debt. 

While the United States may never invest in being a country of debt-free college, we can train our students to expect and do more in the workforce.  The gap is closing, but a more drastic change can be made.  As students, we need to be armed with the knowledge that income inequality exists and there are sexist factors at play.  We must go into our entry level jobs with the proper skills and determination to ask for and receive higher salaries.   

Though progress has been made, and millennial females are undeniably closing the gap, The Washington Post shows women are still paid 20 percent less than their male counterparts.  This includes women with equivalent education, experience and dedication.  Only in a few female-dominated fields, such as nursing, are women higher paid than men.  All races, backgrounds and regions considered, gender bias continues to fuel much of the salary gap. 

No longer can this issue not be deemed a problem because women are choosing not to work in higher paying fields or to hold jobs as stay-at-home moms; instead, women are in fact increasingly choosing same-level careers. With women earning more than 50 percent of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, the gap should be closing more rapidly.  Working women should be seeing more consistent salaries in all fields.

The National Partnership for Women and Families reports that in the United States, full-time employed women are losing more than $840 billion each year.  This decrease affects businesses, the economy and everyone else who is a part of it.  Low incomes result in fewer funds to support families, which in turn puts more pressure on others in the household to provide.  So, how do we make a change that’s good for all?

We should use education to inform all parties of how to avoid or navigate the work force and its bias.  Students and others settling for nothing less than fairness could result in companies being forced to reveal and change their pay policies.  In return, individuals are fairly compensated, families are happier, profitability increases and the

economy grows. 

Information and change of policy are the answers.  This is not a female issue; this is a human issue.  If women rise, then we all rise. 

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