Don’t believe that the gender pay gap really exists? Looking for proof beyond the recent revelations in the gender pay gap calculator? Think sexism is not still an issue we need to keep front and center?
Have you heard the latest row in the tennis world over remarks that women shouldn’t earn as much as men in tennis — that the women in the World Tennis Association are “riding the coattails” of the men?
I woke to that jaw dropper watching BBC World News this morning. Interesting (and relevant) to my intended mention of The New York Times addressing why women still get the short end of the earnings stick, as an article by Claire Cain Miller refers to new research out of Cornell as well as a long-standing study that spanned 1950 to 2000.
Bringing Down the Value of the Neighborhood?
Apparently, as women move into male-dominated fields, pay drops. Even on the surface, what does that tell you?
The article states:
… when women enter fields in greater numbers, pay declines — for the very same jobs that more men were doing before…
By way of example, consider this:
Consider the discrepancies in jobs requiring similar education and responsibility, or similar skills, but divided by gender. The median earnings of information technology managers (mostly men) are 27% higher than human resources managers (mostly women)…
Sure, you could counter with “market forces of supply and demand” on any jobs compared in this discussion, or in the example above, apples to oranges although the point is: We value work done by women less than we value work done by men.
Anyone for Fruit… Or the Fruit of Your Labors?
And if you want apples to apples with no question of interpretation, might you recall these clear male-female pay discrepancies for the same jobs? Among them, the worst offender is retail sales (though just one example), where it seemed…
… that salaries ought to be closer to parity. I was stunned to see this result: In the 41-50 age group, men are paid more than double what their female coworkers are paid. 110% to be exact.
Right. No apples to oranges here. Apples to apples, and very specifically at that. Try red Gala apples to red Gala apples. And plenty of red flags that we’re dealing in systemic, pervasive sexism, with a side order of cultural assumptions, and blinders to bias for dessert.
Ms. Miller’s article also references a second study, which relies on 50 years of census data, and controls for “education, work experience, skills, race and geography.” A number of examples using this data (from 1950 to 2000) further illustrate that women moving into a field of work resulted in lower wages for that field overall.
“Not My Problem”… Ah, But Bias Affects Us All
Not your problem? You’re paid pretty well?
Not your problem? You’re 30 and single?
Not your problem? You’re now retired?
Not your problem? You’re not female yourself?
What about five years from now or 10? What about when you’re married and you have two children and still want to work? What if you find your paycheck would be eaten alive by your childcare costs?
What about your wife, your girlfriend, your daughter, your granddaughter? What about your female middle-aged neighbor who’s doing everything she can to make ends meet? What if her house is rundown because she cannot afford upkeep? Doesn’t that affect your property values? Her health may be rundown as well, don’t you think? Multiply her situation — or that of the millions of female heads of household — and eventually, collectively, don’t we all pay that price in higher costs and premiums?
Beyond the almighty dollar, where is our sense of fairness? Nothing but mythology? Gone with the wind? Fairness as an elusive concept as trampled by the likes of Trump et al? Or any of the other throwbacks who see women as second class citizens?
American Women: You Are Not Alone
It seems to me it’s useful to situate what is taking place in the US in a broader, global context. Consequently, I include some statistics and mentions from the European Union. I admit, I expected the results to be more equitable, especially in Scandinavia.
To my surprise, I was wrong. The gender pay gap in the European Union is as striking as it is in the US. Take a look at this EU gender pay gap map illustrating the differentials in average pay by country.
You will note that just as women earn roughly 80 cents on the male dollar in the US (ethnicity plays a role here as well*), in the 28 countries comprising the EU, on average, women earn 16.4% less than men. (That would be approximately 84 cents on the male dollar.) And this August 2015 Guardian UK article on female bosses points out that female managers earn 22% less than their male colleagues, which equates to working two hours a day — for free.
Might we remember that closing the pay gap is good for both workers and employers in the long run? That it should create not only a more equitable workplace, but a more productive and therefore profitable enterprise? Isn’t it logical that pay equity should allow women to contribute in the workforce more fully, and for a longer period of time, thus not wasting their skills, and reducing the likelihood that they will fall below the poverty line?
Beyond the opportunity cost of wasted skills, doesn’t poverty ultimately come out of our pockets?
Eradicating Wrong-Headed Thinking
Among the important subtleties (and contentious issues) addressed in Claire Cain Miller’s Times column are assumptions pertaining to: choosing lower paying jobs that may afford greater flexibility to care for families; less demanding and therefore lower paying jobs, which theoretically include non-profit and caregiving; and so-called “gender differences” to do with competitiveness and self-confidence. (Hmmm. I wonder what the women in the World Tennis Association might say to that.)
However, we seem to be running ourselves ragged in self-defeating circles when we consider this:
Even though dual-career marriages are now the norm, couples are more likely to choose their location based on the man’s job, since men earn more. This factor is both a response to and a cause of the gender pay gap.
There’s more. Read it.
Addressing the Gender Pay Gap
It is estimated that it will be 100+ years before gender pay equity is a reality. How crazy is that? Can’t we do better? How do we fix it?
How about these points, off the top of my head, for starters:
- Keeping the discussion ongoing and in the media
- Greater transparency in salaries/wages for all jobs
- Organizational initiatives in problem roles/industries
- Our families: More affordable childcare options for working parents
- Our children: encouraging girls to compete; instilling confidence in pursuing whatever interests them as we would boys; monitoring our “looksist” praise (female beauty vs. male competence) and attitudes
I would add that Jennifer Lawrence addressing the gender pay gap in mainstream moviemaking is brave and helpful. And yet I wish she had not shouldered so much responsibility for earning less as she softens her position, mentioning negotiation skills.
Role models remain important, as do those voices — in Hollywood or tennis or anywhere else — that stand up and a shine a light on the problem.
An additional resource of interest: McKinsey Report on Women in the Workplace.
*Gender pay gap figures by ethnicity referenced here.
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