March 19th, 2010 | 6:00 am

Where’s My Yacht? Conceptualizing the Wage Gap

filed under Money Talks

yachtBy Melissa J. Anderson (New York City)

According to a recent article in The Glass Hammer, and numerous recent studies, women make, on average, about 76 – 80 cents on the dollar compared to men. But what does this mean over the course of a lifetime?

Luckily, Women are Getting Even (WAGE), a nonprofit organization based in the United States and led by Evelyn F. Murphy, author of Getting Even: Why Women Don’t Get Paid Like Men and What To Do About It and Annie Houle, National Director of Campus and Community Initiatives, has done the math for us. According to WAGE, over the course of a lifetime, a female high school graduate will lose about $700,000. A female college graduate will lose $1.2 million. And a female professional school graduate will lose $2 million dollars, because of underlying assumptions and outright discrimination based on gender.

These dollar amounts certainly help us conceptualize the cost of gender discrimination in the workplace. But wouldn’t more concrete examples better illustrate the cost of today’s wage gap? Or better yet, what could you purchase with those lost dollars?

Yes, of course. The best things in life are free: a loving family, a fulfilling life, having the last laugh, etc. But let us indulge our materialistic sides, though, for just a bit.

Here are seven things you could own, should the wage gap be eliminated.

  1. How about a really fast car? The Guinness Book of World Records has named the SSC Ultimate Aero the fastest production car in the world, with a top speed of 257 mph. Coming in at $654,000, with the amount of money she’s lost do to the wage gap, our female high school graduate could afford to travel from 0 to 60 mph in 2.7 seconds (provided she knows how to drive stick, of course). And she’d still have cash left over for gas.
  2. Diamonds are a girl’s – well, you know. According to the Tiffany and Co. website (obviously the go-to place for a diamond), one of their diamond engagement rings could run over $1,000,000. Our female professional could even buy two with the money she will lose to the wage gap. If vintage jewelry is more her taste, this Harry Winston emerald and diamond necklace is valued at between $500,000 to $700,000 – well within our high school graduate’s price range. Not too shabby.
  3. Become one of the landed gentry. Whether in the market for a Manhattan apartment featuring Argentinian chandeliers and seven (seven!) closets, a three bedroom home in the Hamptons, or a St. Kitt’s villa, our female college graduate could be living large with the amount of money she will lose over her lifetime.
  4. Sail the Seven Seas. With the million clams she will lose due to a lifetime of workplace gender discrimination, a female college graduate could purchase a pretty nice vessel – like this 42′ Viking Yachts Convertible for $960,000.
  5. Invest in some culture. Why not throw some bones at a starving artist? Jennifer Aniston recently purchased Robert Motherwell‘s Throw of Dice No. 17 for $1.2 million – the same amount a female college graduate will lose over her lifetime. Or if surrealism is more to her liking, should it be recovered after last year’s theft, perhaps she could spring for Magritte‘s Olympia (should she also recover the $1.2 million she will lose because of the wage gap).
  6. Broadcast Yourself. And not just on YouTube. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama dropped about a million dollars on each of his 30-minute prime time ads. With the amount of money she will lose because of wage discrimination, a female college graduate could purchase a similar 30-minute spot – and our professional school graduate could buy two!
  7. Purchase a legacy. Obviously, having a library or hospital wing named after yourself isn’t the only reason to donate a large sum of money to a worthy institution. But it’s certainly a nice perk. With the $2 million she will lose over the course of her lifetime, our female professional school graduate could fund a very nice scholarship program or otherwise worthy project. Perhaps that money could be used to find ways to eliminate workplace gender discrimination or pay for programs supporting the advancement of female leaders.

Research shows that numbers like 81% or phrases like “81 cents on the dollar” can be difficult to conceptualize and translate to the real world – effectively locking considerations of the wage gap into academic studies and research articles. Perhaps if we talked about the wage gap in terms of the yachts or paintings or race cars that could have been, we can better understand, in real terms, the cost of gender discrimination.

5 comments

  1. Mongoose6

    I love it – nice to know if I were a man, I could potentially drive an Aston Martin by the time I retired.

  2. melissa

    Ha! Bond, Jane Bond.

  3. Shayna

    This is great — I write about the wage gap and the glass ceiling, but to really be able to wrap your head around what it means in the course of your lifetime is just staggering – Thank you!

  4. lucy

    This is great

  5. Bogdan Alexa

    Thank you, great article !