It is a well-established fact that men and women are paid unequally. In the U.S., U.K. and around the world, figures for average pay reveal stark differences between male and female earnings. In the U.S., women on average earn around 21.4 percent lower pay than men, a figure that amounts to women earning roughly 79 cents on average for each dollar earned by men in the labor market. This pattern of male pay advantage is a truly global phenomenon: Across the 28 member countries of the European Union, women earn on average 16.4 percent lower pay than men.

But what’s behind these gaps in average pay? Simple comparisons of male and female earnings ignore many important differences between men and women that affect wages. Differences in education, years of experience, job type, and industry all affect wages, and gender pay gaps can arise from many different factors. Some factors are clearly negative—and illegal—such as overt workplace bias and discrimination.

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