It's been more than five decades since the passage of the Equal Pay Act, but as a new report documents, the gender pay gap is ongoing and pervasive.
Released Thursday by PayScale, a compensation data firm, Inside the Gender Pay Gap examines salary information from roughly 1.4 million full-time U.S. employees. An often cited figure is that women earn 78 cents for every dollar a man earns. But that Bureau of Labor Statistics figure, the firm notes, compares the average earnings of all men and all women. PayScale's report also looks at the controlled pay gap, comparing women with similar qualifications working the same jobs as men, where it found a pay gap of 2.7 percent.
That pay gap "still represents a real disparity in pay, and one that can't be explained away by choice of occupation or the experience lost due to time out to care for children," writes PayScale's Jen Hubley Luckwaldt.
"The gender pay gap is absolutely real," Reuters quotes Aubrey Bach, senior editorial manager of PayScale, as saying.
"Half or more of our workforce is made of women but we are still not progressing at the same level as men," Bach said.
Among the findings of the report are that men's salaries continue an upward trend until the age range of 50 - 55, averaging $75,000. The upward salary trend for women, in comparison, ends between the ages of 35 and 40, and averages just $49,000.
Married men earn the highest overall salaries, averaging $67,900 for those with children, while single moms have the lowest overall salaries at $45,500 controlled for all measured compensable factors.
Katie Bardaro, VP of Data Analytics and Lead Economist at PayScale, called the report "illuminating on many levels."
"One surprising and significant takeaway is that the more often a woman tells us that she prioritizes home or family obligations over work, the larger the controlled gender pay gap becomes, even when compared to men with similar characteristics who say they prioritize home and family over work with the same frequency," she stated.
Their survey also showed that men 52 percent of men prioritize home/family over work at least 1-2 times per month, while 46 percent of women say they do.
Another takeaway from the report: higher degrees are no protection against the pay gap.
PayScale found that the highest controlled pay gap—5.1 percent—is for PhD holders. It's 4.7 percent for MBA holders, and 4.6 percent for MDs.
The National Women's Law Center has noted (pdf) the little progress made in the wage gap over the past decade, and Institute for Women's Policy Research has said that if the trajectory the gap has followed for the past 50 years continues, it would take 44 years to achieve parity.
And the ramifications of the inequity continue after women leave the workforce. With Social Security benefits based on earnings, the wage gap contributes to a "perfect storm" for women's retirement.