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November 21, 2003
Report Finds 20 Percent Wage Gap between Men and Women

Different work patterns explain only a portion of the wage gap between men and women, according to a report by the General Accounting Office analyzing why women tend to earn less than men do.

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Women generally work less than men do and women leave the workforce for longer periods of time, resulting in lower income, according to the report, which the GAO prepared at the request of Congress. However, when the GAO took those factors into consideration, it found that women still earn about 20 percent less than men do, the Associated Press reports.

The GAO said it was unable to account for the remaining difference between men's and women's earnings. The researchers spoke with experts who offered additional reasons for the wage gap. The experts told the GAO that discrimination could be a factor. In addition, some women may choose jobs that offer more flexibility to manage work and life responsibilities over jobs with more career advancement and pay. The report noted that debate exists whether women make such choices freely or whether they are funneled into lower-paying jobs because of stereotypes.

The report found that women work an average of 1675 hours per year, while men work 2147 hours. On average, women have about 12 years of work experience and men have about 16 years of work experience.

"After accounting for so many external factors, it seems that still, at the root of it all, men get an inherent annual bonus just for being men," Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, one of the legislators who requested the report, tells the AP. "If this continues, the only guarantees in life will be death, taxes and the glass ceiling. We can't let that happen."


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