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Good Question: Why Do Women Make Less Than Men?

By Jason DeRusha, WCCO-TV

-- For nearly a century, researchers have found that equal pay for equal work isn't happening for men and women in the United States.

A study by the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs and the Women's Foundation of Minnesota found that women earn 76 cents for every dollar a man makes.

So, why don't women make as much as men?

"That's an important question," said Lee Roper-Batker, President of the Women's Foundation of Minnesota.

She said the first factor is that women work disproportionately in lower-paying fields. It's called job clustering.

"It's a huge issue that I think starts in grade school. When we're talking to students about what kind of career choices they want to go in, when we're calling on boys more in science than girls," she said.

According to the study, 52 percent of Minnesota's working women are in service, sales and office jobs. In those fields, the median earnings for a full-time woman range from $24,697 to $33,744. That compares to 30 percent of working men in those fields.

Research has found that men tend to work in more dirty, dangerous and financially risky jobs and those come with higher rewards.

"The other reason is the mommy track. Women who choose to stay home and raise kids while their young: we don't have enough on and off ramps for them, so their pay can suffer as a result," said Roper-Batker.

Researchers have designed studies where they factor in the choice of job, experience, the mommy track. "Every time you put a factor in, the gap closes, but it doesn't go away," said Dr. Teresa Rothausen, a professor at the University of St. Thomas' Opus College of Business.

"If you give someone the exact same resume, but you put a woman's name or a man's name on and say how much is this person worth or how much would you pay this person, and you randomize that," she said, "they'll say they're gonna pay the man more."

A new study published in Health Affairs looked at hires right out of medical school, hires that shouldn't have any of the influences or factors that affect women later in their careers. But female heart surgeons were paid $27,000 dollars less than men. Female pulmonary disease specialists earn $44,000 less than men.

"Discrimination is less overt than it used to be, but it's still really part of how we're socialized," said Debra Fitzpatrick, a researcher at the University of Minnesota.

Rothausen echoed that thought. Hiring managers have an "image of what a strong powerful mover and shaker is," she said, "and it might not be as feminine as it is masculine."

She noted that there are several discriminating factors that subconsciously affect pay rates.

"CEOs who are taller get paid more than CEOs who are shorter. I don't see this as hugely different from that; it's not just about gender," said Rothausen.

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