Closing The Gap

This is the age at which women are most underpaid

SUPERSTORE -- "Pilot" -- Pictured: America Ferrera as Amy
Trae Patton | NBCUniversal Media, LLC
SUPERSTORE -- "Pilot" -- Pictured: America Ferrera as Amy

The average woman could lose $403,440 over a 40-year career to the gender wage gap. That number is even more startling for women of color, with black women losing $867,920 and Latina women losing $1,056,120.

PayScale's "The State of the Gender Pay Gap 2018" report takes a closer look at how those numbers add up over the years. Men and women tend to work in similar jobs at the beginning of their careers. At this point, women are paid roughly $0.82 for every dollar paid to their male counterpart. As the years go on, women tend to remain in these lower-paying jobs, while men move up the ranks in both position and pay.

Between the ages of 30 and 44, the pay gap widens to women earning $0.76 for every dollar earned by men. At this point, men are 70 percent more likely to be in VP or C-suite-level roles.

By late career, defined as age 45 and above, the gap is even wider, with women earning $0.69 for every dollar earned by a man. At this age, men are 142 percent more likely to be in a higher paying role than their female colleagues.

PayScale Vice President Lydia Frank says more emphasis needs to be placed not just on the salary gap, but on the opportunity gap that women face.

"The people [women] are negotiating with are most often going to be men," Frank tells CNBC Make It. "Your boss is more likely to be a man and there is that potential unconscious bias happening where we know from most studies that women and men treat women differently when they initiate negotiations."

Frank says the conversation needs to shift from what women need to do to improve their careers, to what organizations can do to help them.

"I will say when you are looking at apples to apples, so often the onus is put on women to ask more often, be more confident and 'lean in,'" she says. "But I think in order for things to change, we have to stop telling women to do more to get paid more. We have to put ownership on organizations to look at pay equity."

Rather than reacting after someone complains about their compensation, Frank says more companies need to be proactive with paying women equally and promoting them fairly.

"Promotion is a metric that more companies should be looking at to see how different groups in the organization are advancing within the workforce," she says. "You can cut that on gender and racial lines. You need to understand if people are dropping off at some point in the funnel and why. Is it a particular role, or department or manager?"

"We have to stop telling women to do more to get paid more." -Lydia Frank, VP, Payscale

By doing this, she says an employer can see if everyone in the company is advancing at the same rate.

Like many, Frank applauds the organizations that have announced pay equity among their employees, but she says real analysis needs to be done on how many women in the company actually have the opportunity to earn a high salary.

"Yay, you closed the pay gap! Great — but look at your board and managers," she says. "Are you providing the access for opportunity that is really going to impact the overall gender pay gap?"

Currently, women make up 44 percent of the overall S&P 500 workforce, yet they hold only 25 percent of executive and senior level roles, 20 percent of board seat roles and just six percent of CEO seats.

Kim Churches, CEO of American Association of University Women, says that a lot of the systematic issues we are seeing in the workforce are linked to a dearth of women in leadership roles. She says companies should not only look to promote the current women within their organization, but also to diversify their pipeline of talent by reaching out to professional organizations geared towards women or attending college job fairs at all-female institutions.

Frank agrees, and says that no major shift will be seen in the gender pay gap until opportunities are increased for women to not only get hired, but also promoted.

"The thing that keeps the pay gap so stubbornly wide is this imbalance of power in the workplace," she says. "I do think the conversation needs to shift from equal pay for equal work. It's not that that's not an issue, but it is relatively small to closing this opportunity gap, which is going to do more in terms of moving women forward."

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