Some say it is because we're choosing jobs that pay less, taking time out of the workforce and showing less ambition. Others say it is because men tend to hold the top jobs and tend to pay the men at their companies bigger salaries -- either because they like them more or feel they deserve it.
In today's Miami Herald column I included comments by attorney Richard Tuschman of Epstein Becker & Green, who says: "I'm not suggesting some women don't get paid equal for the same work as men. But the numbers being bandied about suggest it's a huge problem and that's just not the case." (Tuschman writes the Florida Employment Blog)
I've been thinking a lot about something a female lawyer said to me. Barbara Locke, a lawyer who went out on her own after 20 years at a big corporate law firm, told me women need to be more assertive about money. When we think we're paid fair, we don't concern ourselves with what others are making, she said. She also belives women are too upfront about their parenting responsibilities or need for flexibility. For example, she says we tell the boss we're willing to take less pay because we need to leave by 5 p.m. two nights a week. Men will just leave early without bringing attention to themselves.
I think Barbara absolutely is right.
I was astounded when I looked at Fortune's lists of highest paid men and women. The highest paid men earns almost 10 times what the highest paid women earns. Women are climbing the ranks but our paychecks don't reflect it. Barbara's not convinced they ever will.
Are our choices to blame for our lower paychecks? Are women doing enough to push young girls into higher-paying fields? Are we negotiating hard enough for the highest salaries possible?
Two new national bills, the Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act, will make it easier for women to sue for pay discrimination. But the threat of a lawsuit may not be enough to fix the problem.
Barbara says it will take a generation or two or three before women have any chance at equal pay. Do you agree?