Tampa Bay leaders discuss gender pay gap, and what to do about it

Published Nov. 21, 2015

The gender pay gap still exists — although women in certain, narrow demographics make more than men. Men do a better job than women in advocating for pay raises. And women tend to work in professions that pay less than male-dominated jobs.

Those were among the high points of a discussion of the gender pay gap at Friday's meeting of the Tampa Tiger Bay Club at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Westshore. Making up the panel were Lorna Taylor, CEO of Premier Eye Care; Tom Gonzalez, a lawyer specializing in labor issues; Susan Leisner, former chair of the Hillsborough County Commission on the Status of Women; Diane Price-Herndl, professor of women's and gender studies at the University of South Florida; and Amy Hollyfield, Tampa Bay Times deputy managing editor for politics and business.

Here's a recap of the discussion.

The gender pay gap is real, but results stagger. Women who work full-time, year-round make 77 cents for every dollar men earn in the United States, according to 2012 data from the Census Bureau. But in terms of wages, women make 82 percent of men's wages, as of 2013. Hourly earnings show a smaller pay gap — 87 percent — since it accounts for part-time workers, who are likelier to be women. But when broken down by specific groups, there are some sectors that show areas where women are equal in pay or outperform men. There aren't many. But single women who don't have kids, are in their 20s, and live in major metro areas outearn their male peers. In Atlanta, women in this demographic outearned men by 21 percent, and in Los Angeles, by 12 percent, according to PolitiFact.

Women aren't as good at negotiating as men, but they're getting better. Taylor, who heads a vision management company that services 11 states, hires a lot of people. She said white male candidates in general are very good at advocating for themselves, whereas women, especially women of color, rarely negotiate and even seldom ask for a raise. Women more often than not are applying for lower wage jobs as opposed to high wage roles. Taylor said companies should take it upon themselves to fix this problem and be transparent about gender balance in salary and in leadership teams. However, she noted that "millennials are remarkable about advocating for themselves, much more so than the baby boomers or Gen X."

More women work in industries that pay less. Careers in teaching and the arts, which are dominated by women, don't pay as well as science fields. Though there are more female doctors in the United States today than ever before, Price-Herndl said, the influx drives down wages of the entire industry. "This is the big picture question: How do we place value on specific industries?" Gonzalez said. "It will require a shift in society and legislation to change that."

How can we change it? Mentoring is key, Taylor said. "And not just the old boys club mentality," she said. "You can inspire and mentor women the same way you mentor men." Hollyfield agreed, and added that "being aware" of the issue comes from educating yourself. Research the issue, make sure you know what's really going on and share what you learn with others. Price-Herndl said she and her colleagues are developing an undergraduate course at USF to teach women financial literacy and negotiation tactics.

Contact Justine Griffin at or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.