The job-for-job wage gap is not a myth, contrary to what a column in last week’s issue of the Old Gold & Black proposed.
Even when a commonly-referenced figure from the U.S. Census Bureau, which identifies a 23 percent “wage gap” between men’s and women’s average salaries, is adjusted for job title, industry, experience, location and several other factors, economists find that women still earn 6.6 percent less than their male counterparts.
But for the sake of argument, let’s imagine for a second that there is not an income disparity between men and women working in the same positions in the United States, and that any disparities result purely from the fact that men and women are employed in different jobs and in different ways.
If this were the only cause of the problem at hand, identifying it should still raise many more questions than it answers; it’s unacceptable to be comfortable with a disparity of that size — or, really, of any size.
Women account for just 29 percent of professionals in the 20 highest-paid careers and are more than 50 percent more likely than men to remain in the 20 lowest-paid for over a decade. On average, more women graduate college than men and with higher average GPAs.
The piece is correct in suggesting that women choose lower paying jobs, but this does not imply culpability. What is preventing women from seeking or being hired in high-paying positions?
The reality is that phallocentrism is still something our society operates within, and making arguments that suggest that women are better suited to working less and being paid less perpetuates it in a dangerously explicit way.
Of course, it is undeniable that childbearing falls on those with wombs out of necessity. There is no reason, however, for any woman to accept the idea that she, after giving birth, must give up employment to assume the role of caretaker of the family and the house, while her husband gets to be the head of it.
Now, if this traditional dynamic is one a woman chooses to embrace, it is both perfectly acceptable and respectable — but that choice should be her own.
Unfortunately, childbearing and childrearing, two essential and traditionally female roles, are devalued and perceived as professional liabilities. On average, a woman’s salary decreases by five percent for each child she has, because mothers and pregnant women are seen as less committed and dependable.
Furthermore, the U.S. is the only industrialized nation whose government does not support paid parental leave, and only 13 percent of people have access to it. In fact, 33 percent of people take no formal time off at all, and 67 percent of mothers are in the labor force. Contrary to what the column asserts, over half of those work full time, and over one third are the primary earners of their household.
Research suggests that while improved maternity leave policies could augment the wage gap, increased paternity leave could actually close it.
But just envision the backlash that would result from men being told that their employment would have to change if they became fathers.
The piece also argues that women are less likely to “ask for raises, aggressively seek promotions, relocate for better jobs and work longer hours.”
In actuality, women are more likely to have effectively negotiated a raise, even in male-dominated professions, but because women are socially conditioned to be less “bossy,” “demanding” and more accommodating, this is more likely to be seen as a negative trait by superiors.
At the current rate, the wage gap in the U.S. will not close until 2058, and the rate of improvement appears to be slowing.
The point in last week’s column that “a political uprising would be more appropriate than [mild] opposition” is in fact true. In order for this to occur, though, both men and women must recognize the issue, and positions of power must be used to enact change.