Gender Pay Gap: Why California’s Pay Gap Is Smaller


As of: 12/29/2021 3:43 p.m.

On average, women earn less than men – this gap is known as the “gender pay gap”. In Germany it is 18 percent, in California twelve percent. What can Germany learn from the US state?

By Katharina Wilhelm, ARD Studio Los Angeles

Pay equity is a law that has long been anchored in the United States. A so-called equal pay law has existed since 1963. The state of California is particularly far ahead in applying the law and, above all, tightening it in recent years. That leads to big differences when you compare Germany and California, says journalist Birte Meier.

Catherine Wilhelm
ARD-Studio Los Angeles

There is open talk about the pay gap

For one thing, companies shouldn’t forbid their employees to talk about salaries. They would also not be asked about their previous salary during interviews. And: Many women who have previously complained about a wage gap would have already been right. That is very deterrent for many employers.

This year, too, there were eager lawsuits: for example, the US national soccer players and the employees of the game manufacturer Activision Blizzard – and more than 10,000 women also took more than 10,000 women to court against Google mother Alphabet.

Lawsuit against ZDF

As a fellow at the Thomas Mann House in Los Angeles, Birte Meier is researching how California has managed to better close the wage gap. Because the gender pay gap – the wage gap between men and women – also exists here: unadjusted, it is twelve percent; in Germany it is 18 percent.

For Meier it is also a personal issue. In 2015, the business journalist sued her employer, ZDF, because her male colleagues earned more than she did. Before the Federal Labor Court, she won her first victory. The proceedings are pending at the Federal Constitutional Court.

“Schützenhilfe” from Hollywood

The fact that the laws in California are further than in Germany is also due to Hollywood – to be more precise: to individuals like Patricia Arquette. The actress gave an emotional speech at the 2015 Academy Awards for more fair pay.

In some cases, differences in wages also came to light in other ways. In 2014, for example, pay slips were published during a hacker attack at Sony Pictures – this had consequences, because suddenly it became apparent how various actresses and other filmmakers were being paid. This also fueled the discourse.

Progressive laws work

Meier emphasizes that California is still a long way from achieving full equality. Black and Latina women in particular are paid much less in comparison.

After her research, however, Meier comes to the conclusion: The progressive laws strengthen women and lead to a different climate in which women can speak more confidently about their salaries and insist on their rights.

Gender Pay Gap – What Can Germany Learn from California?

Katharina Wilhelm, ARD Los Angeles, December 15, 2021 2:04 p.m.


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