Gender Pay Gap:
As research shifts away from the assumption that women are at fault for their own low pay, it’s moving towards the reality that there are obstacles to equal pay that stand in the way of even the most talented and driven women.
And while that might not exactly be news for women in the workforce, it is an idea that stands to revolutionize the way women work and receive pay in the workforce. Oddly enough, one of the fields that has the greatest potential to capitalize off of female inclusive work environments is the automotive and skilled trades industry.
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, less than 2% of the automotive, skilled trade and motorsports industries are women. For the few that make it in, opportunities to out-earn the males dominating the industry are few and far between.
But that might be about to change.
The automotive industry is not only leaving skilled laborers out of the garage and off of the track, they are leaving female consumers out of the race, as well. Women are starting to capitalize off of this neglect by creating their own spaces for women to work, learn, and spend money. The waves these women are making stand to challenge the gender pay gaps in their industries and in the workforce as a whole.
What is the gender pay gap?
All across the world, women are denied the opportunity to earn as much as their male counterparts.
According to the World Economic Forum, the global gender pay gap is 31.4%. That means for every dollar a man makes, a woman makes 68.6 cents. In the United States, it’s 21%, or for every dollar a man makes, a woman is paid only 79 cents.
In some industries the pay gap narrows, in others it widens but overwhelmingly women in the workforces are shoved out and short changed. And it doesn’t get any better if you’re a woman of color or a mother.
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, women of color earn significantly less than both white males and males of the same race. Native American women suffer the widest pay gap. For every dollar a white man is paid, they only earn 57 cents. For every dollar a white man earns, a Hispanic female only makes 61.6 cents. They only make 85.7 cents for every dollar a Hispanic man earns. Black women earn 65.3 percent and 89 percent of that their white and black male counterparts make respectively.
Mothers also face added obstacles in the workforce. These obstacles translate into lost wages that accumulate over time. According to the National Women’s’ Law Center (NWLC):
“Nearly 25 million mothers with children under 18 are in the workforce, making up nearly 1 in 6 – or 16.1 percent – of all workers. And a record number of these mothers – about 3 in 4 mothers in the workforce (75.6 percent) – are working full time… In 2017, 41 percent of mothers were the sole or primary breadwinners in their families, while 23.2 percent of mothers were co-breadwinners. While women in the U.S. who work full time, year-round are typically paid just 80 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts, the wage gap between mothers and fathers is even larger. Mothers working full time, year round outside the home are paid just 69 cents for every dollar paid to fathers, a gap that translates to a loss of $18,000 annually.”
Mothers of color suffer greater pay gaps than their white counterparts. The NWLC ln details, “….white, non-Hispanic mothers are paid 72 cents; Black mothers are paid 54 cents; Native mothers are paid 48 cents; and Latina mothers are paid just 46 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic fathers.”
These obstacles to fair pay don’t seem to decrease as women climb up the workplace ladder, either. In fact, the gender gap widens. Women that are able to overcome opportunity gaps in order to access executive level positions still only make 69 cents for every dollar their male colleagues are paid.
Solutions to the pay gap exist, but for far too long researchers and business leaders were looking in the wrong place. Decades of progress have been lost to the false notion that women need to change themselves in order to succeed in the workplace. But that’s starting to change.
Are women the problem?
For generations the male dominated labor industry and its researchers have done their best to blame women for the gender pay gap. It couldn’t possibly that men created the workplace to suit the schedule and cultural preferences of men – white men to be specific. The gender pay gap also couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that men set the pay and bonus schedules. No. That’s not it. There has to be something wrong with women. Right?
As ridiculous as it sounds, that’s what researchers of the past used to think.
For example, lot of time and energy went into trying to prove that women made less money in the workforce because they are just bad at negotiating, or too weak to even try. Fortunately, that assumption has been challenged and dismissed.
Core to the myth of the negotiation challenged woman is the assumption that men would pay women fairly if they just asked properly. As such, women are just too feeble to approach their bosses for raises, or they lack the skills to properly cast the magic get-a-raise spell if they do. (Yes, ladies, that idea is just as unrealistic as you think it is.)
More current and less biased research is showing that these assumptions are, in fact, stupid. Women don’t have a problem negotiating. The environments that they are expected to negotiate in have problems with women.
Women, it turns out, have strong negotiation skills and have distinct advantages over men in areas like cooperativeness, ethical proficiency, active listening and open-mindedness. They face everything from the discriminatory eye of their bosses to outright punishment in efforts to ask for raises at a rate more comparable to men than previously thought. And despite their efforts, men consistently refuse to create opportunities for equal pay. Still, time and self-confidence were lost as a result of misplaced blame.
Another common misconception is that women choose to have children over advancing their careers. That’s also a distorted take on the work-family balance. Both men and women choose to have families. It’s just women that are punished for it.
In fact, men have created a system that not only punish women for having families, but that reward males. Researchers have even coined a term for this punishment: the motherhood penalty.
The New York Times reports:
“ 71 percent of mothers with children at home work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and women are the sole or primary breadwinner in 40 percent of households with children, according to data from the Pew Research Center…on average, men’s earnings increased more than 6 percent when they had children (if they lived with them), while women’s decreased 4 percent for each child they had…Childless, unmarried women earn 96 cents for every dollar a man earns, while married mothers earn 76 cents, widening the gap.”
It’s not so much that women choose their families over their career, it’s that men don’t have to.
If women aren’t the problem, what is behind the gender pay gap?
The models of inclusion, operation, and advancement that run the U.S. labor force were designed by men, for men, and against women at a time when women were expected to stay home with the kids while the men earned a paycheck. Times have changed.
In 1950, women comprised 34 percent of the workforce. Now, 47 percent, they comprise almost half of the labor market. Women also currently head 40 percent of the households in the United States. While the traditional 9-5s might have been ideal when Leave it to Beaver was the most popular show on tv, modern American life demands a far more flexible schedule. More importantly, the modern woman demands far better treatment and far more flexibility.
Research is beginning to catch on.
Instead of problematizing women, recent studies have turned to the types of work and workplace environments that are at best unfriendly and more often hostile to women in the workforce. They are finding that it’s not just a glass ceiling keeping women out, but brick and mortar workplaces that demand strict attendance and the discrimination women face within them that push the pay out of women’s wallets.
Discrimination is a factor
While some fields are more female friendly than others, it is undeniable that women face discrimination in the workplace. This discrimination factors into the gender pay gap. As the Economic Policy Institute describes, “One 2008 study found that “52 percent of highly qualified females working for SET [science, technology, and engineering] companies quit their jobs, driven out by hostile work environments and extreme job pressures.”
These same hostile environments and extreme pressures also keep women out of education and training programs. This lack of training and educational advancement can also weigh heavily on a woman’s ability to increase her income.
Men, on the whole, treat other men differently than they treat women. Men in the workforce treat female laborers differently than male laborers. This translates into work environments that create obstacles to women’s participation and success in the labor force. It also translates into less pay.
Work Environment is Key
Some professions are more female friendly than others. For example, the barriers to participating in fields such as environmental sciences and social services are less pronounced than in fields like the automotive industry, academia, and computer programming. Researchers seeking to understand why women in some profession face wider pay gaps than women in other profession have made some interesting discoveries.
A researcher from Harvard by the name of Claudia Goldin examined two groups: female legal partners and female pharmacists. She chose these groups because they reside at either end of the gender pay gap spectrum. Women law partners, for example, are on the wrong side of a 53 percent pay gap in their field. Female pharmacists make 92 percent of their male counterparts’ pay.
What Goldin found is interesting. It’s not a lack of skills or determination that make women earn less than men, it’s the inflexible work environments and discriminatory advancement systems that reward men and punish women that are to blame.
In the legal field, for example, women must respond to rigid hours and are expected to put in overtime in order to access advancement opportunities. Modern pharmacists have access to employment opportunities that offer more flexible and less demanding schedules. But this wasn’t always the case.
Female pharmacists used to suffer from rigid and unrewarding work environments not unsimilar to those that characterize the legal field. Their hours were limited. Their employers were small and inflexible. And they suffered a 63 percent gap in wages as a result. As mom-and-pop pharmacies gave way to larger chain store pharmacies, things began to change. These changes increased schedule flexibility and decreased the gender pay gap. Similarly, other fields that allow more opportunities to work remotely or to work varying hours produced narrower gaps in pay.
So, as it turns out, it’s not women’s inferiority that drives the gender pay gap. Instead of trying to change women in the workforce, we need to change the workforce for the women. And there is arguably no field positioned better to do that than the automotive industry.
The Labor Force Needs a Revolution
The automotive industry is a perfect example of a field that is ready to be revolutionized. It is so male dominated it has all but shut out female laborers and insulted over half of its consumer base. Even so, women remain some of the most skilled and passionate professionals in garages and racetracks across the nation. Some of them are even pioneering their own unapologetically female leadership styles and business models.
Girl Gang Garage, for example, acknowledges that “If she can’t see it, she can’t be it.” With women representing only 2.1 percent of automotive technician and mechanic workers, there is no better time for women owned businesses to take the lead in empowering women that want to work in the industry. The Girl Gang Garage is taking the lead in transforming the relationship between women and automobiles by employing women and empowering them to take the lead.
In addition to producing all women restorations and full builds, The Girl Gang Garage also offers training and educational workshops that expose women to the skilled automotive trades. These workshops give women the chance to see females working and leading in the industry. They also give women valuable information in a format that is not only really educational, but undeniably cool.
Another company, Girls Auto Clinic, is also changing the way women interact with the automotive and skilled trade industries. According to their website, “GAC offers full service auto repair, female mechanics, manis, pedis, and blow outs while you wait at Clutch Beauty Bar – a beautiful lounge tailored to women.” Girls Auto Clinic gives its customers a place to embrace their femininity, feel confident in their automotive care, and multitask on a tight schedule. Get em.
Women owned and operated businesses in automotive might still be few and far between, but the impact they can have on the industry is dramatic. Not only are these female pioneers of auto changing the game for workers, they are also changing the game for consumers.
Women Can Revolutionize the Workforce AND the Marketplace
Women comprise just over half of licensed drivers in the United States. Sixty two percent of all new cars were purchased by women. It’s time for women to take more leadership roles in the automotive workforce. By supporting automotive work environments that are friendly to women, female consumers will also be given the opportunity to take the wheel when it comes to their own vehicles.
Attracting female customers takes more than offering a pink license plate frame. Women need to feel educated, invited, respected, and empowered in automotive spaces. They also need shops and garages to work around their schedules.
Building off of the idea that Girls Auto Clinic salon support femininity, automotive spaces can also be places where motherhood is supported and encouraged. Women shouldn’t have to put down their lipstick in order to love their cars. They shouldn’t have to put their babies down either.
A number of Fortune 100 companies offer childcare to their employees. They understand the value of providing families with the means to fully participate in their businesses. Women in the automotive industry can work in similarly creative ways in order to knock down obstacles for workers with children.
They can also extend this creative thinking to consumers. IKEAs, for example, have Småland which is a free supervised play area for children that is available to parents while they shop. Childcare is often an insurmountable barrier for mothers that want to work in automotive, as well as consumers that want to access the market. Women in automotive can begin to close the gender pay gap by designing their businesses to take mothers into consideration.
Women centric shifts in the ways that businesses in the automotive industries operate will not only function to break down the barriers for women workers, but they stand to revolutionize the consumer marketplace by doubling its capacity.
So maybe instead of trying to break through glass ceilings meant to dissuade equal pay, it’s time for women in the workforce to start building their own houses – and their own garages. In many industries, there are untapped markets of excluded women that are hungry to work and buy in spaces that have traditionally been designated for white men. There may be no industry with a greater need for females to take the lead than the automotive industry. It’s time for women to grab the wheel and take the lead.
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