By Patty Moore, blogger and author @WorkMomLife!
In this day and age, everyone has student loan debt out of college. For women, however, this is only part of the problem. Along with the income gap and leave policies, it’s can be nearly impossible to get out of student loan debt or other types of credit card debt.
New reports indicate that around 44 million borrowers own a total or $1.3 trillion in student loans. Specially, women over men hold around two-thirds of that entire debt, which is a number over $800 billion. Part of the reason this exists is because women have a tougher time paying off the debt.
Paying Student Loans After College
Reports indicate that women pay off debts slower than men. Part of this is due to the gender pay gap. Women can work full time with a college degree and still make 26 percent less than a man. Lower pay means less money for debt repayment.
In the 1-4 years after graduation, men pay off around 38 percent of their debt, while women can only afford to pay off around 31 percent, on average. This also means that default rates are higher for women than men, especially among minority groups of women.
While there are creative ways to pay off student loans and other debts, not earning enough money simply makes things more difficult. Since women have less money to put towards a debt, those debts are going to take longer to pay off. Therefore, more interest will accrue on the debt.
The Gender Pay Gap
Most people know that men are paid more than women over a lifetime, but what does that really mean? Do women choose lower paying jobs? What does the gender bias have to do with a paycheck?
According to the AAUW (American Association of University Women), women were only paid around 80 percent of what men were paid in 2016. The gap has moved closer since the 1970s, but this is mainly due to more women seeking higher education.
While these women are making more, they’re also paying off more student loans. Between 1960 and 2016, it looked like the pay gap would become equal by 2059, but based on a slower increase since 2001, that year could be closer to 2119.
Present day, the gap is closest in New York and California (89 percent) and furthest in Utah and Louisiana (70 percent).
Leave Policies For Women
Beyond crushing student loans debts and less income to pay them off, women must also consider leave policies at work. CNN reports that “government-mandated paid leave programs harm young women, whether they’re available to fathers or not.”
Generally speaking, the parental leave policy is associated with leave-taking and childbearing. These two advantages are seen on paper as lost labor and increase health care costs for employers.
While sexism is something that should be fought, the numbers may encourage employers to reconsider women in terms of hiring, promoting, training, or pay increases, which will continue to hurt all women.
Currently, preventative measures are being taken in Congress to fight these issues. It’s possible that reforming occupational licensing laws, relaxing zoning regulations, or the potential Working Families Flexibility Act of 2017 will help expectant parents bank overtime hours like a union career.
Ways To Improve The Gender Gap
All in all, the overall problem has a solution, but it can take time. If the government raises the minimum wage, raises the tipped minimum wage, supports fair scheduling practices, create sick days legislation, or create a national paid family medical leave insurance program, things could move faster.
For individual women, however, there are other methods to move things along. Men negotiate their salaries four times as often as women do. While a new poll found that 83 percent of women believe it’s important to negotiate their salaries, only 41 percent of women actually did it. Part of this reason falls on social standings.
The problem here is that many women feel they will look ungrateful or pushy at the office if they do negotiate. However, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try. The only way to bridge the gap sooner is to negotiate for more money or to look for a higher paying job in the same field.
Arguing that women are less likely to negotiate shouldn’t be the only factor to help the gender pay gap, but employers are doing everything they can to keep their money and employees need to be working harder to earn more money. This is a small, first step in the overall picture to help the gender pay gap.
Photo Credit: Beyond Classically