The Wage Gap: more than Just Gender

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The wage gap in America is a term that means there is gender discrimination when it comes to equal and fair payment in the workplace. There is this myth that women get paid around .77 cents for every man's dollar for doing the same job. This is not true when it is considered in context, and it has been proven (Agness). This is one of the most common misconceptions about the wage gap that gets discussed. From my perspective, although there is in fact, a wage gap, the factors that contribute to it are far more diverse than it being a simple gendered issue. It might be more accurate to say that there is a gender earnings gap instead of a wage gap.

To say that based upon one being a man and the other being a woman one gets paid more than the other, is not true. There are so many different factors that play into this. For example, in the famous study that said women earn .77 cents to the dollar for the same work a man does, that study did not even take in consideration education level, hours worked per week, job experience, and different job types. Those are some of the most important factors to take into consideration, and when you fail to consider those key factors, of course there is going to be a big wage gap between men and women. This study simply combined all the average salaries of women and all the average salaries of men and stacked them up against each other and claimed there was a discriminatory wage gap. There are many different sources that debunk this stat and breakdown where it comes from. President Obama talked about this in his speeches frequently as well. He was doing the same thing by taking that stat out of the context it was originally intended for, even though that stat comes from the government itself.

A person might ask, how did we even come to the fact of a wage gap? The truth is, it has gotten a lot better than it was when women first started working heavily in the workplace. The whole problem of the wage gap has been raised by both feminists and democrats through the years, although not exclusively those two groups, and it has been going on for decades. This is a good thing because it has led to many different laws accommodating the wage gap. Some laws include but are not limited to; The Equal pay Act of 1963 which established that no employer can discriminate wages or otherwise based upon sex for doing the same job in the same conditions requiring the same amount of work (The). This is still the principle for every workplace in America today. That is why every application states, "This is an equal opportunity employer." Not only have there been many federal laws and regulations, but also state regulations. Illinois alone has passed many bills and laws into effect such as the Equal pay act of 2003. This law mirrors almost the exact same idea as the federal law as well so there are now both the federal government and the state government enforcing these laws. The effectiveness of both laws is constantly called into question and more action is always demanded. Not only has Illinois passed a law for the equal wages of genders but also passed a law called the Wages of Women and Minors Act (Berlatsky). This law was aimed to reduce the wage gap for both women and minors. Although these laws are not perfect and by no means solves the issue, it is a step in the right direction and at least people are taking notice of the problems and trying to solve them.

The main people who disagree on this issue are typically people who lie in the right hemisphere of the political spectrum. They try to discredit this argument by saying that if all of those stats and studies were true, then companies would just hire women to work instead of men since they could save around 23% by hiring only women. This is an absurd argument because both federal and state laws would never allow for something like that to take place. One study from the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics conducted in 2017, analyzes the percentage of men and women who were occupied in specific fields. The following results reflect the concentration of men and women in particular career fields: For jobs in business that includes management and finance Women 17.9%, Men 16.5%. Professional and related occupations, women 30.6%, men 19.7%. Service occupations, women 16%, men, 12.7%. Sales and related, women, 8.7%, men, 8.9%. Office and administrative support occupations, women, 19.6%, men, 6.2%. Natural resources, construction and maintenance, women, 1%, men, 17.5%. Finally, production, transportation, and material moving occupations, women, 6.2%, men, 18.6% (Highlights). These stats indicate the different occupations that men and women go into. It is worth noting that men tend to go into the construction and manual labor type jobs more often, and women go into the professional and office type of jobs more often than men. Neither of those facts are a bad thing for either gender. It just exploits the tendencies that both genders have when it comes to choosing a career. According to the same source, the top three most common jobs for women were, registered nurse, elementary and middle school teacher, and secretary or administrative assistant. The three most common jobs for men were, truck driver, engineer, and miscellaneous manager (Highlights). The median weekly earnings for all top three women's jobs combined was $2,865. The median weekly earnings for all top three men's jobs combined was $4,141.50 (this number varies depending on the specific job.) (Highlights). When I look at that statistic, the very first thing to notice is how lopsided it is, and then question why. To me, all of those jobs are incredibly important so to get to the bottom of why this happens, we have to think about the specific jobs for each gender and compare them, and then it becomes a question of "value". Who is to say which job is more valuable than the other? For example, registered nurses earned more that truck drivers on average per week which, if you ask me, they should because I think being a nurse and potentially saving, or at the very least helping lives, is more important. However, engineers earned a lot more than an office or administrative assistant. So, this is significant because when the average salaries of male and female workers are combined, of course there will be a wage gap. If someone compares a registered nurse's earnings to a truck driver, there is going to be a wage gap. The same concept applies to the engineers. If men tend to go into things such as engineering and more dangerous jobs that pay more, if that gets compared to all other jobs, there is obviously going to be a wage gap. These examples can go on forever, and obviously both genders work in each one of those jobs. Those figures are for broad purposes only.

A clinical psychologist by the name of Jordan Peterson did a breakdown and tried to determine what other factors went into the wage gap. He found that there are a number of different factors that play a role in the issue and his findings determined that a lot have to do with personality. It is very important to note that this is a clinical psychologist and a professor at a University in Canada. He does not have any political agenda and he makes it very clear that he is not affiliated with any party. That being said, he was being interviewed by a news outlet known as 'Channel 4' and it is based in the UK. The interview was conducted by a woman named Cathy Newman and when she prompted him if it is unfair that women get paid less, he basically said that it depends on certain factors within one's own personality. He uses an example by saying that there is a personality trait known as agreeableness and those who have it are very polite and compassionate and people who have this trait tend to get paid less than those who do not have it. He says that women are more agreeable than men and that is not a generalization because there are certainly women who are assertive and get paid more than men (Channel4News). He knows this trait firsthand because as a psychologist, he has used assertiveness training in order to get rid of the agreeableness trait and by the time he is done with the therapy, the patients are usually very highly successful in both men and women. What we can conclude from this, is that generally, men have the tendency to be more assertive and more aggressive in the ways of getting to "the top". This is only one example. Other examples given are factors such as the obvious one, gender. There is no doubt that there is prejudice and gender makes up for a percentage in the pay gap, but it is not as big of a factor as it is made out to be. Another factor is the occupations chosen by men and women. As stated before, women tend to go into the fields of nursing, education, and office work, while men go into jobs such as truck driving, engineering and managerial duties. Generally speaking, jobs that are more dangerous such as being out in the oil rigs, firefighting, etc. women tend not to choose, and those are very well-paying jobs. Obviously, this is not the case for every man and women, it is a generalization, but a fact nonetheless.

However, that is not to be said that there is one gender better than the other. Men and women both have their strengths and weaknesses. It is not a bad or sexist idea that one gender is better than the other at something. Men and women are built differently, so it makes sense that mostly men take up careers doing physically rigorous and dangerous jobs more often than women. Males are built very differently from females and there is nothing wrong with that. Women can give birth, men cannot. It is just a fact of life. It does not mean that females can not do the rigorous physical work, it just means it is less likely for them to have a career in that field, based off the statistics (Highlights). America is based off of equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome. So, when all we want is choices, people will go off and make their own decisions about the career fields they go into. There should not be an equality of outcome, otherwise there would be no need for anyone to try to work harder than anyone else if all of the outcomes end the same way.

That being said, it is critical to hear the other sides argument. There are a lot of places to cover, so it is impossible to cover all of their arguments fairly. However, one of the major complaints that is most recurring is that there are not enough women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields. Many sources claim that it is due to gender bias and stereotyping as well as the current state of the science and engineering fields (Bensidoun). This is true to some degree. Many girls growing up are not encouraged to go into fields such as science and engineering. There are also many stereotypes surrounding women in those fields. For example, there is a stereotype that women are not good at math so a woman taking a math test might think about those implicit biases and feel more pressure than usual. Another major issue at hand is the fact that women are associated with being more agreeable in the workplace. So, when a woman shows assertiveness or dominance, they are called names that are usually demeaning when a woman is associated with being powerful. When a woman acts that way, sometimes they are looked at funny, or in the worst-case scenarios, punished for being too forceful. A lot of women say they feel like they get punished for behaving the same way as a man does in the workplace. These are stereotypes that need to be broken down for women to feel extreme confidence. Women also feel like they are pressured to take time off of work for maternity leave. They feel like society places an obligation on their heads to take more time off of work when their kids are born, causing them to get behind on their work and consequently their wages. This brings up more of a problem in the American workplace about paid maternity leave. In 2017, only about 15 percent of U.S. workers got any paid family leave (Greenfield). This is the real problem. Families should not be punished or docked pay for taking care of newborns or sick kids. Neither should women or men feel bad or punished for taking time off work and putting their work career on hold temporarily. Everyone has family duties outside of work and workplaces in America should recognize that. This makes up for only part of the earnings gap between men and women.

All of those are valid arguments and as stated before, it is impossible to touch on all arguments the other side makes, but a lot of the main points were discussed. As for the argument that there are not enough women in the STEM fields, it is true, but it is not because men are controlling or disparaging women for joining those fields. It is because those are simply the choices that men and women tend to make. When choosing careers, men tend to choose the more difficult, more demanding jobs that require much more time outside of work that a lot of people, not just women, are not willing to give up. In fact, in countries that are the most egalitarian, the differences between men and women and their choices become even greater (Halpin). Countries such as Algeria and Albania have greater female graduates in STEM fields than countries that are dubbed as the most gender equal such as Finland, Norway, and Sweden (Halpin). In other words, the more freedom men and women get, the more they sort themselves out into fields more suitable for them. A lot of people say that if America was more gender equal then there would be less lopsided careers, but this statistic proves it wrong, even to my surprise. In America, women are graduating at a higher rate than men (NCES). Meaning that there will be more opportunities for women to get to higher earning jobs in the future at a higher rate than men. There was a study that was conducted by Time magazine in 2010 that analyzed 2,000 communities by a market research company and the results found that 147 out of 150 of the biggest cities in the U.S. the median full-time salaries of young women are 8% higher than those of the guys in their peer group (Luscombe). Also, in two of the major cities, Atlanta and Memphis, those women are making 20% more (Luscombe). These are major important stats that often get overlooked. I personally have never heard a stat like that, but it seems very important and relevant to the earnings difference between men and women in major cities where there is the most population.

There is a lot to say about this issue because it runs deeper than even I imagined. There are many factors to consider and many numbers and data not even accounted for that are immeasurable. Such as personality traits in people and discrimination in workplaces whether it is obvious or not. It is very important to talk about this issue, but it is also very important to represent it fairly and to know the facts and not take things such as stats out of context. Often times what will happen is media outlets will get ahold of one certain stat that sounds bad when taken out of context and gets blown out of proportion and gets people stirred up. Workplace equality is vital to anyone's success and everyone should be given equal opportunity but not necessarily equal outcome. There are laws in place at both the federal and state level that prevents any workplace wage disparity for doing the same job. As stated before, America is based upon equality of opportunity and the rest is up to the individual to excel in their position in life. That is why there are laws in place that prohibit anything but an equal opportunity for employment. Men and women each have their own strengths and weaknesses and they should be utilized to their fullest advantage. This argument will more than likely continue for a long while, and like anything, it is important to see the value on both sides. Taking in consideration both sides of coin will help to get a greater understanding of problems that inadvertently affect us all and make us more knowledgeable people.

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The Wage Gap: More Than Just Gender. (2019, Dec 23). Retrieved July 15, 2024 , from
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