Happy equal pay day? Uncovering myths about equal pay

Beeld van cottonbro studio
Beeld van cottonbro studio
Janna Visser (redacteur)
Janna Visser (redacteur) • 10 nov 2023

In 2023, Dutch women earn on average 7.4% less than men. Recent research shows that the gender pay gap in the Netherlands has even become bigger over the past two years. It is often said that women ‘just need to negotiate better’. Our response? Educate yourself about the true underlying issues at stake. Here are some real facts about equal pay. 

Happy equal pay day? Unfortunately there is not much to celebrate still. Women, even within the same professions, often continue to earn less than their male counterparts. Globally, the gender pay gap is estimated at around 20 percent, meaning women earn just 80 cents for every dollar a man makes. For women of color, immigrant women, and women with children, the difference is even greater - with women paid up to 35 per cent less than men in some contexts.

While different initiatives have taken place over the years, little seems to have changed on a structural basis. Let’s go over some of the most common gender pay gap myths so we can finally leave those behind and make equal pay for equal work happen. 

Myth 1 - The gender pay gap is a myth itself

It is probably the most commonly heard misconception: the gender pay gap doesn’t really exist. Some argue that women simply make different career choices or work fewer hours, thus justifying the disparity in pay. However, numerous studies and statistics demonstrate that even after controlling for factors such as occupation choice and working hours, a significant pay gap still exists. 

Myth 2 - The gender pay gap is only a women's issue

Another persistent myth is that the gender pay gap only affects women. In reality, the pay gap has much broader implications. It impacts families, communities, and the overall economy. When women are paid less for the same work, it doesn't only affect their financial well-being, but also the ability of families to make ends meet and have an equal division in household responsibilities, such as taking care of children or elderly. 

Myth 3: Women choose lower-paying professions

A frequently cited argument is that women often opt for professions that pay less than those chosen by men, such as the caregiving or education sector. While it is true that certain sectors historically dominated by women tend to pay less, it is important to note that these career choices are often influenced by social and cultural expectations. A remarkable observation is that when more women enter a previously male-dominated field, the pay drops

Myth 4: The gender pay gap will disappear on its own

There is sometimes optimism that the gender pay gap will naturally fade away as society progresses. While progress has been made, the pay gap remains a persistent issue. Structural problems like gender discrimination, lack of transparency in salary negotiations, and deeply ingrained gender stereotypes contribute to the persistence of the pay gap. Just as equal division of care tasks does not magically happen overnight, the gender pay gap will not simply disappear by itself. 

Closing the pay gap

How to move from a pay gap to equal pay? First of all, talk about all things related to the pay gap: from salary, application procedures, negotiations, unpaid labor, to social norms. But don’t stop there, organizations have to put equal pay into practice: Research the pay gap in your own organization, ensure equal pay for equal work, promote longer parental leave and examine discrimination and bias in hiring and pay decisions. The only way to close the gender pay gap is to fight the systems that keep it in place.

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