Don’t Buy into the Gender Pay Gap Myth
The world we live in nowadays is profit-oriented. Capitalist societies that first appeared during the Renaissance period and have since spread and developed in most of the countries over the world have established the ever-lasting necessity of creating only more profit and capital.
Consequentially, the gained profit and acquired capital are invested further and directed into the new ways of acquiring personal gain.
In a social order like this, it is understood that the few rule the many.
Due to the ultimate goal of the arrangement, the few will look for competent people to aid them in such an undertaking, without exception.
As harsh and ruthless as it may sound, the sole idea behind hiring someone for a job is whether they can or cannot contribute to your cause.
This is where only a few factors actually help the candidate – relevant education, the capability to do the job in questions and the dedication to it.
Despite the above, there are some trends to suggest otherwise.
Namely, it is claimed that there are numerous biases when hiring people and that other factors guide decision-making.
Most common of the factors in question are family relations (AKA nepotism), education preferences (i.e. some schools and universities seem to be more desirable than others), political orientation, marital status and various other forms of discrimination, such as age, religious, racial, and gender discrimination.
This is where things get extremely complicated and many debates have been led concerning the topic over the past few decades.
Potentially one of the most dangerous of notions is the gender-based discrimination.
It presupposes that women and men are not equal and that accordingly, they are unable to perform the same tasks with the same care or devotion.
It is a funny notion, and yet an obvious one.
Well, of course, we are not equal; if we were, there would be no “women and men”, there would be…uni-gender?
Additional problems arise when the idea of gender inequality goes further and we are faced with presumptions how men and women are not equally paid for the jobs they do.
Hence, the phrase “gender pay gap” was coined to denote these differences.
There is a whole myth behind this kind of discrimination, so let us try to explain some of the facts here.
WHAT IS THE GENDER PAY GAP?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a pay gap is “the difference between the amount that two different groups of people are paid”.
And when we add gender as a pre-modifier to the equation, we can easily understand that two different groups are men and women.
Elaboration of the Term
The aforementioned claim includes two lines of opinion, which are as follows:
- Women are paid less than men, taking into account the gross earnings from the overall employed population, disregarding the job positions;
- Women are paid less in comparison to men for the same job they do.
The supporters of the theory elaborate it by claiming that wage differences between male and female employees are visible everywhere.
Supposedly, if you take the (employed) population of a city as an example, you will find that the numbers are in favour of men.
When you isolate male from female workers in all branches/business areas, male workers will be the ones with higher earnings than the female ones.
The same goes for cases where men and women do the same job. Seemingly, women are paid less than men even if they do the same job.
Even though there might be some truth to the case, there is still too much generalisation about the topic and there are many contributing factors.
One group is seemingly paid less, but sometimes we need to raise the question of whether we all really do the same amount of work and are the numbers of employed men and women at the same level.
DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES OF GENDER PAY GAP MYTH
From a historical point of view, women have only joined the working people club rather recently.
Due to male-dominated culture, it has taken centuries for women to reach the point where they are now. What is noteworthy for the gender pay gap myth is that this is still work in progress.
Unfortunately, women have yet to prove their equal abilities and thus earn an equal share in the overall number of employed.
In the early days when human species just started functioning in organized communities, the important decisions were made by men who were in charge of the well-being of all the members.
They organized the work and were also the ones to do it while women were in charge of raising children.
At that time, the decision was not entirely irrational or discriminatory.
The reason for such an arrangement was pure biology, but we will get to that later.
Anyhow, throughout history women have struggled to get the same opportunities as men do.
As can be seen today, their fight was not futile. Many countries or organisations have recognized and encouraged systems offering equal chances for everyone, which resulted in equal pays.
Looking at another point, we are still facing culture-related obstacles preventing women to pursue their careers globally.
Many cultures keep insisting on women not being allowed to work or receive the proper education for that matter.
We will all agree that this is an enormous hindrance to the possibility of their employment.
Hence, globally we have a lesser number of employed women.
In such cultures, the possibility for a woman to find a job mostly depends on the goodwill of the family patriarch whether it is her father, brother, or husband that we are talking about.
It often happens that girls attend schools and colleges, but they never get the chance to use the acquired knowledge in practice.
However, even if they are allowed to work eventually, they are almost as a rule stuck at menial jobs such as shop assistants, desk jobs or reception clerks with no responsibilities or say in anything.
In a background like this, it is considered natural and even encouraged for women to be paid less.
Taking into consideration the previous paragraphs, it is highly hypocritical to speak of the gender pay gap when we have a gender employment possibility gap.
Although the trend is slowly changing, males have been the providers while women were the home-keepers ever since the beginning of human species.
This has nothing to do with the roles that society imposed on us (this only came later!).
The reason for this is simple biology. Women are the ones who are predisposed for the birth due to their anatomy, while men lack the same ability.
Women are more tender and caring beings which is something that a new-born depends on in the early stages of its life.
The mother is the one who takes care of the feeding and the survival of the offspring, while the father is there to support her (support meaning both emotionally and any other way necessary).
As a consequence, this did make some damage to women’s employment prospects.
What is also interesting to address from the biological point of view is different body textures in women and men.
Men are of a more sturdy muscular built while women are willowy and slender. Males respond better to environmental conditions than women.
On the other hand, women are more sensitive to other people’s feelings and are more perceptive. Women are also more organized and better at planning.
Naturally, you may wonder what all of this has to do with the pay gap.
But, we will get to the point.
SUPPLY AND DEMAND AND FREEDOM OF CHOICE
As various industry branches develop almost on a daily basis now, thus the situation in the market changes.
The industry demands new skills and people train themselves so as to supply the necessary knowledge.
Accordingly, many schools are abandoning the old teaching methods, focusing mostly on the current needs in the market.
Here it is completely up to an individual, whether male or female, what they are going to choose.
And somehow, we ended up with a division between male and female jobs.
The men choose one thing, women decide to choose another. Sometimes the choices they make bear large significance to their earnings.
For example, it is common knowledge that mechanical engineers are well paid.
Somehow, the majority of engineers (mechanical or other) are men. It is also common knowledge that a nurse’s job is a relatively well-paid one, but nurses are women by far.
One cannot deny there are highly skilled and competent female mechanical engineers or that there are male nurses providing the same patient care as the female ones.
In both cases, unfortunately, we are speaking of such a low number.
The point here is not that nurses are paid less than mechanical engineers.
The point here is that a male and a female nurse will get the same compensation for the work they do, just like the male and female mechanical engineer, all based on their total accomplishments.
As we have already gone through biological predispositions, we have accordingly established that men and women are not physically the same.
Men respond better to heavy-duty working conditions, whilst women do not.
This is why it is more acceptable for a man to do a physically challenging work than to let a woman do it.
All thanks to these biological predispositions, you will find men in high-risk jobs, such as mining, oil platforms (off-shore and on-shore), aviation (but take a look at this interesting list of successful female pilots), military, while women will stay in a safe environment.
However, since today’s society is challenging all norms, the boundary between “male and female jobs” is being pushed.
As a consequence, the difference in pay percentage disappears.
As we have seen above, the voluntary factor here bears large significance.
Obviously, it is completely up to an individual to choose whether to deal with one profession or another.
Women are voluntarily choosing one type of jobs and men are choosing another.
The consequences are such that we get a seeming wage gap.
This has nothing to do with one gender group being paid less, but it has much to do with the type of jobs that need to be paid more or less.
In case we haven’t put enough emphasis – choice and voluntary are the keywords here!
TRADITIONALLY ASSUMED AND SOCIALLY IMPOSED GENDER ROLES
When discussing the pay gap, people to tend to forget an interesting trait that distinguishes male and female candidates when negotiating. Namely, women tend to “settle” for what they are offered, while men are more prone to negotiating.
In a way, women see negotiating as a conflicting situation, and due to their peaceful nature, they always give their best to avoid conflicts of any kind.
Perhaps, some of our tricks on giving your salary requirements might come in handy.
Now, having in mind the capitalist society depicted at the beginning of this article, it is more than obvious that if you do not stand up for yourself, nobody else will.
A higher salary for an employee means profit loss for the employer, so a woman will indeed get the job with a potentially lower starting salary than her male co-workers.
Similar to the situation in the previous paragraph women will find it more difficult to negotiate the salary later on, and once they do it, it is rarely fruitful. So, here you may find some of the typical mistakes you need to avoid during salary negotiation.
Anyhow, there is another way to look at this. We have already established that today’s society is fully organized around profit and gain.
In such an establishment it is only relevant how much work you actually manage to accomplish.
What we have also established is that women have traditionally been the home-keepers.
In addition to the natural predisposition, it is nowadays understood that a woman is still the one who needs to be there for the family without any exceptions. Now let us see what this really means in practice.
Let’s take a man and a woman, with the same background story (married, with children) occupying the same working position within a company as an example.
Let’s assume that they work under the same conditions (hours, insurance, paid leave, etc.) and they work for exactly the same amount of compensation.
As long as there are no external factors to disturb the ideal situation, they will both make the same progress and earn the same amount of money, provided that they give the same quality of work.
But, what happens when an external factor disturbs the given state of affairs? For example, the woman gets pregnant. Or, a child gets sick.
Perhaps, school projects need to be done with a parent involved or a PTA meeting needs to be attended. What happens in case of a divorce?
Naturally, when a woman gets pregnant, she will eventually have to leave work temporarily in order to tend to the new born.
Fathers will also be allowed to take their leave of absence once the child is born, but they mostly opt not to do it. For women, there is no choice.
During the first months of its life, the baby will need the mother more for mere biology reasons. Nursing is just one instance.
The situation gets even more so complicated if the pregnancy is risky, and the woman needs to be either hospitalized or stay at home until she’s due.
Further, after the baby is born, due to (mistakenly) gender assumed and socially imposed roles, what do you think who takes care of those PTA meetings and other situations mentioned two paragraphs earlier? Of course, it will be the woman.
Somehow, men tend to consider such affairs dull and time-consuming, leaving them to be dealt with by their better half.
And as the woman is off to take care of all the hospital visits, school projects and tasks, or nurse the child in any other way, it only results in consequences career-wise.
Additionally, the scenario which makes the situation most difficult for women is a divorce.
By the laws of nature, the mother is the one whom the child is assigned to leaving the fathers with more free time to pursue their careers.
In such a situation, a woman is torn apart between providing for the family and other sorts of well-being.
Though the previous few paragraphs might seem to provide a bit of a lengthy explanation, they actually perfectly depict how various factors related to family care take their toll on the actual working hours and consequentially the earnings of a female employee.
Although she does get some kind of compensation for the time off, it is less than what she will get when she works full time without leave of absence.
The above has displayed only one instance when the numbers are in favour of men. Let’s take a look into another example.
It is universally acknowledged that people with a college degree enjoy higher salaries than the ones with only primary or secondary education.
Being socially stigmatised for centuries, women have had difficulties (and don’t be fooled, they still have all over the world) getting educated.
Obviously, since the men enjoyed this “privilege” since the early days it is then fully understandable that the wage percentage participation for women will be lower.
A direct drawback arising from inadequate or insufficient education is that women were unable to pursue any full-time jobs, let alone corporate careers, and so they ended up with part-time jobs, directly linked to lower pay.
Here, we need to point out the phrase lower pay, not pay gap.
And if you wonder what the difference is, think about this.
What would be the idea behind paying a man waiting tables (for example) more than you pay a woman do to the same? Customers like it more when they are served by a man?
This can’t be true.
The job does not take any particular skills except for being steady enough not to pour everything down to a customer’s lap.
So why should a man, just because he is a man, be paid more than a woman in such a situation?
IS EVERYTHING TRULY SO BLACK AND WHITE?
Throughout the article, it almost seems that we have been trying to prove that the gap truly exists and that the men are indeed paid better.
However, we just wanted to lay out facts contributing to popular opinion. Now, let us take a brief look into another side of the story.
The USA is considered to be the largest democracy in the world. It is a country where ideally, everybody gets equal chances.
How come that in the US we encounter such professions where women are actually paid more than men?
According to an article published on the CNBC website, there are ten distinguished professions where women are paid more than men, most notably in agriculture and electrical and electronic engineering. Interestingly, another source indicates that women’s earnings in construction jobs also tend to be higher than those of their male colleagues.
Moreover, high-precision jobs and jobs which require higher aesthetic quality are usually performed by women.
Women have smaller and steadier hands and are better at visualizing, which makes them more fit for the job. Naturally such kind of job means higher earnings.
If you search the Internet you will find a plethora of articles tackling the issue of gender pay gap indicating this or that number of professions where women are more paid than men.
What is more important is that those will be articles from countries around the globe.
Human civilisation has gone through multiple forms and shapes and each one of them had both its good sides and the shortcomings too.
Historically, you could always find some group of people struggling to achieve one thing or another.
This is how we reached a capitalist society oriented towards gain and profit, disregarding the needs and desires of the majority of the population.
In such a society every individual leads a struggle of its own, hoping for a better outcome.
Though the path has been hard, the female half of humankind has managed to win the fight for its rights and enable equal chances compared to their male counterparts.
Although there are still some things to be done, we see women involved in all relevant decision-making processes.
Being offered the same possibilities, women have leveled up with men when it comes to both education and competence. With such a situation, the earnings are no longer an issue to worry about.
Many organisations have enforced pay transparency leaving no possibility for any injustice.
Although we still have a significant number of unemployed women, those who do work significantly contribute to the pay gap being eliminated.
And, as we have seen there are multiple professions where women are actually paid more.
So, to summarize, do not buy into the gender pay gap myth!