Women Earn Less Than Men, but Lesbians Earn More Than Straight Women. Why?

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Slate Outward
By Vanessa Vitiello Urquhart
April 14, 2015

April 14 is this year’s Equal Pay Day, chosen because it marks the point in 2015 when women’s earnings finally reach parity with what men earned in 2014. Women’s pay is, on average, significantly lower than men’s for many reasons, including choice of degree or career, hours worked, and discrimination by sexist employers—but not all women are affected equally. Lesbians, while still earning significantly less than straight men, actually outperform their straight female counterparts.

The breakdown is as follows: On average, for every dollar earned by a man in a heterosexual couple, a woman in a heterosexual couple earns 63 cents, while a woman in a same-sex couple earns 79 cents (same-sex coupled men earn 98 cents), according to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, which was based on findings in a 2013 report by The Williams Institute’s Gary J. Gates. This is true despite evidence that lesbians, along with gay men, experience more discrimination in the workplace than heterosexuals do; they also have less job satisfaction. While the exact combinations of factors that lead to a wage premium for U.S. lesbians aren’t thoroughly understood, potential explanations can tell us a lot about the ways in which sexism, cultural influences, and individual choices combine to give us the unequal workplace landscape we see today.

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