There's less of a disparity in wages than ever before. Women now make 79 cents for every man's dollar. (This we are supposed to be proud of.) Microsoft just announced this week that it is paying women only a little bit less than it is paying men.

Um, congrats? 

It's "equal pay day," and that means it's the annual day we ladies all joke about how we can't wait for year 2059--the year pay is actually expected to be roughly equal for women and men. Helpful reminder: The Equal Pay Act was enacted back in 1963.  

But, hey, while we wait, let's catch up on what's really going on with wages lately.

According to a new study by Hired.com, a business that matches tech workers with jobs, women are still both asking for and receiving smaller salaries than men. The research, which is based on salary and offer data (rather than self-reported numbers), is compiled into a report called Women, Work, and the State of Wage Inequality. It found that after a job interview, the ask itself is significant: For the same jobs, women set their expected salary an average of $14,000 less than a man does. And even setting that aside, nearly 70 percent of the time a man receives a higher initial salary offer than does a woman vying for the same job title at the same company.​

"It's difficult to determine whether this is a symptom of unconscious gender bias in the hiring process or results from an ongoing cycle of women being underpaid, setting their salary expectations too low, and ultimately receiving less 
in subsequent roles," the report reads.

Perhaps more disturbingly, the research found that when there are more men, the disparity in wages grows.

That was studied by looking at categories that are male-dominated, such as software engineering, compared with categories with greater gender parity, such as marketing or project management. While there's only an 4 percent gap in pay in design roles studied by Hired.com, that grows to 8 percent for software engineers.

Separate research, and conventional wisdom, shows that in fields that are traditionally female-dominated, salaries in general are lower. So how about trying to fix that by changing fields?

Ha. "When women move into male-dominated occupations, however, research suggests that rather than solving the problem, those fields tend to become less respected and lower paid as a result," Time magazine reports.

It's also worth considering that the pay gap also varies from location to location. According to data from the American Community Survey, in 2014, the pay gap for full-time workers was smallest in Washington, D.C. (There, women were paid 90 percent of what men earned.) The gap was widest in Louisiana, where women earned just 65 percent of what men did.

There are two encouraging new findings, though. Smaller companies, especially startups in pre-funding stage, tend to have a smaller wage gap. Bootstrapped companies and seed-stage ventures that used Hired.com had only a 4 percent gender-wage gap. (But the study found that gap widens as companies grow larger and accept venture capital funding.)

And, younger women workers, particularly in tech fields, may be pioneering a shift. Hired's research found that women with zero-to-two years of experience who took new jobs actually asked for 2 percent more compensation than men--and received 7 percent more.

So there's at least a hint of progress in an otherwise bleak prognosis.

Published on: Apr 12, 2016