Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Gender wage gap has most to do with life choices, not sexism, studies find

Recently, an actress used an award speech to put some more spin on the disparity between male and female earnings in America. However, she twisted the facts to present a false narrative. To quote the US department of Labor, “[T]he differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.”.  So, there you have it.

The wage gap also came up in Obama's state of the union speech earlier this year. However, if it has not much to do with sexism, but instead is mostly dependent on life choices made by individuals, it can't exactly be legislated away, now can it? And if this phenomena is caused by different life choices, couldn't it also be said that women themselves are mostly responsible for the gap, as any individual should be held accountable for the choices that they have made?

Come on now, it's 2015. If the market is fairly awarding wages, why is there any need for government intervention?  Is this issue just a rallying cry for certain groups at this point? Let me know what you think.


CleoWienbar7 said...

I think you are discounting how many women make "choices" that aren't really choices at all. Women often have to become stay at home mothers when they have children, which is the main cause for the wage gap. Leaving the workforce for multiple years right in the critical moments of their career (which unfortunately coincides with a women's childbearing years) puts women many years behind in terms of advancement and wages. (
You could argue that they choose to leave the workforce for that stretch of time, However, the distinct lack of paid maternity leave and affordable child care make it almost impossible for a women to not spend some stretch of time away from work. Factor in the possible health complications from pregnancy, especially since more women are delaying pregnancy, and you have a recipe for women being excluded from the workforce simply because they have children.
My above answer doesn't even factor in the sexism in many high paying industries. Studies have repeatedly shown that "John" gets more job offers and a higher starting salary than "Jennifer," even if they have the same resume. (

Elena E said...

I agree with Cleo fully. For many families, a big goal is to have children and raise them well. In our society, women are the main caretakers of kids, and it is not much of a choice. This does put men at an advantage in the workforce. The time women take off to carry, give birth, and take care of their kid can be very extensive, but a woman can't really help it. Though there are many examples of fathers taking time off work to take care of their children and help their wives, it is significantly less commonly seen.
Furthermore, I always see the wage gap not only as a problem of salaries in the work force, but also a symbol of women's rights. If women cannot obtain equality in a developed country that is considered to be a leader in the world, how can women obtain equality in less developed countries such as Yemen, Iran, or Saudi Arabia?

Nick Kromelow said...

I can see where you're coming from, Cleo. However, for any issue regarding a child, it is a choice to have a kid right?. If one valued their career over starting a family, they could very well put off having children. Although, women do certainly get the short end of the stick regarding this life choice.

Companies tend to fire employees when a pregnancy is involved, as it's just cheaper for them to. In states like California, where that isn't legal, fired employees can sue, but are likely to get far less money from the lawsuit than they could through wages. In other words, it's cheaper and more efficient for companies to fire pregnant a employee and find a replacement than to keep said employee. It's the reality of staying competitive in the market, paying for someone who may not be working is putting your company at a disadvantage.

I've seen that study before, and I found that the results were pretty interesting. While I don't think 'representation' of any group in the workforce matters whatsoever, the wage disparity was interesting. However, with events like the relatively recent 'shirtgate' after the ESA was able to land on that comet, I don't think it's hard to see why the people in this field may be a little skeptical.

Elena, while childcare is unavoidable if the choice to have a child is made, I'm still not convinced that this specifically has anything to do with being paid less for the same amount of work. If anything, it just means that women can't work as much as a man, contributing to the average wage gap.

On the subject of equality, we don't actually want true equality in all situations, as a society. For example, in situations like the draft or child custody, it's been demonstrated that people don't want true equality. I think that we have pretty much achieved gender equality in terms of rights, or at least as close as we'll ever get or want to get.

It's interesting that you bring up countries like Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Iran, as these countries have fundamentally different values from western nations due to their Islamic nature. These countries don't value freedom of speech (and neither do Europe's ridiculous amount of Muslim immigrants, it seems), they don't value freedom of religion, and they certainly don't value any Women's rights. The only way to change countries like these would be to raze them to the foundation and start over, as Islam itself is an obstacle to achieving Women's rights in these countries.

Murray Sandmeyer said...

There was an interesting buzzfeed video released a couple of weeks ago that depicted a businesswoman talking on the phone with a pregnancy test in her hand. It said positive, and she visibly grimaced and wrung her hands while at the same time talking to a coworker about investments and budgets. Even though the video was scripted, I think it shows something that I would never really consider an obstacle in my career as a man. I never really think about how raising a family could potentially put me out of work for 9 months or more. Although the choice to have kids or not exists, the physiological differences between men and women creates real disparity, and we have to acknowledge that when it comes to policy about maternity leave and wage equality.