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WELCOME TO THE ZOO | The Gender Wage Gap

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With an open mind and two sides of the story, you’re bound to learn something new.

Welcome to the zoo! This is a blog where both the Republican and Democratic viewpoints are represented. The blog is not meant to sway you either way necessarily, just to present both sides of the story. You may not agree with the whole article, but hey, you’re likely to agree with half! The topic this week: the gender wage gap – does it exist?

Stance 1

        “Women earn 77 cents to the dollar of men” is the motto for people arguing about the mythical gender wage gap. But does this mean that women are receiving lower pay for equal work? No. We arrive at that particular figure by comparing American women’s median annual earnings with that of men’s. Meaning we do not take into account the differences in hours worked, time off for childcare, or the relative lucrativeness of different career paths that women and men pursue.

The “gender wage gap” should more accurately be referred to as the “gender earnings gap” because the discrepancy is based on career choices women make and not discrimination. Harvard economist Claudia Goldin, a professor at Harvard University, noted that studies have shown that men and women of the same education level earn the same amount straight out of college. But as men progress in their careers, a gap emerges. The biggest difference lies in job titles; large differences especially appear after women give birth. A study from the University of Massachusetts found that for each child a woman has, her earnings decrease by four percent. Anything that results in fewer hours at work is a huge factor, which leads to another difference between men and women: on average, men work more hours. Mark Perry, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute, noted that the average man worked two more hours per week in 2014.

Career choice also plays a significant role in the earnings gap. Men and women choose very different careers; men often go into higher risk, higher paying professions. A Department of Labor study released in 2009 reviewed upwards of 50 peer-reviewed papers and concluded that the wage gap “may be almost entirely the result of individual choices being made by both male and female workers.” Women generally opt for occupations with greater workplace safety and hour flexibility, and they willingly accept lower wages and the safety that comes with it. So it is not surprising that in 2014, 92.3% of workplace deaths were men; they chose the higher risk, higher paying careers.

We should stop wasting time teaching young girls about a mythical pay gap and warning them that they will face discrimination when they are older. They should learn to own their failures, whether it be making less money or losing a soccer game, and avoid blaming the system. If anything, society should focus on encouraging young girls to go into the notoriously male-centric corporate culture and STEM careers. We will grow up to be strong, independent women that make our own choices, and it will remain up to the individual woman to decide what makes her happy.

Conservatively Yours,

Katie

 

Stance 2

The gender wage gap, and the belief that it does not exist, is an example of the prevalent and systematic sexism that exists in our society today. According to the Congressional Joint Economic Committee, the Economic Policy Institute and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (as well as many other research institutions), women earn 79 cents for every dollar earned by men for equal work. Women are viewed as inferior to men in many facets of life: men are seen as more hard working, intelligent and talented than women. The saying, “women can have it all” is only true if women are equal to men; women are expected to raise a family and work full time while still earning less than men. The wage ratio applies to data comparing men and women’s earnings for virtually every occupation. If the wage gap improves at the pace it has been over the past fifty years, it will take 45 more years for women to earn the same amount of money for the same work as men. Despite equal job qualifications and education levels, on average, women are paid less for jobs in male-dominated fields, and female-dominated careers typically result in lower wages. Despite the fact that women graduate with more college and graduate degrees than men, women still earn, on average, 21 percent less than men do for the same job, with the same responsibilities and performance.

It is infuriating that people claim the gender wage gap is a lie by holding childbirth and maternity leave against women. Biologically, women have to carry a child for nine months. Paid maternity (and paternity) leave should be mandatory throughout the United States. Although the lack of paid maternity leave should not contribute to the gender wage gap, it currently does. Women should not be punished for giving birth or wanting to have children, nor should it influence their salaries.

 

Below is a list of a few sample jobs with the unequal gendered salaries. All salaries represent earnings of individuals who worked full-time at equal jobs.

Occupation (all full-time workers) Women’s Median Weekly Earnings Men’s Median Weekly Earnings
Elementary/Middle School Teachers $957 $1,077
Managers $1,213 $1,525
Accountants and Auditors $988 $1,345
Financial Managers $1,130 $1,732
Software Developers $1,415 $1,751
Chief Executives $1,836 $2,251

 

If the fact that women are as capable as men yet do not earn as much money in the same occupations does not faze you, then the impact on the U.S. economy should. It is proven that a lifetime of lower incomes for women means less income for families generally, and therefore higher poverty rates across the United States. If women receive equal pay, the United States’ economy would increase by $482 billion (2.8% of the GDP).

Women are an integral part of society and make up 50 percent of our population. Why should women be punished for their gender? Why will I earn less if I work just as hard as and hold an identical occupation as my brother does? We must eradicate the embedded sexism in our society before we can expect any real change to occur in the workforce. Perhaps this can start by electing our first female president…

Liberally and Equally Yours,

Rebecca

 

Rebecca Saber is a junior government major in the College of Arts and Sciences. She aspires to be Secretary of State, but is willing to settle for Supreme Court Justice. When she is not writing about politics, Rebecca can be found watching TV in her bed or at some musical theater rehearsal. Welcome to the Zoo appears on alternate Wednesdays this semester. If you want to chat, Rebecca can be reached at rms432@cornell.edu.

Katie Barlow is a junior biology major in the College of Arts and Sciences. When not debating politics, she can be found running half marathons, eating mashed potatoes, and teaching tree climbing for COE. Welcome to the Zoo appears on alternate Wednesdays this semester. If you’re up for a chat, Katie can be reached at kmb324@cornell.edu.

2 comments

  • Rebecca, with all due respect, you’re completely misusing the 79 cents to the dollar statistic.

  • Rebecca, you misrepresent the problem. Women do not earn 21% less than men for the same job. Rather, women who work full time as a whole make 21% less than men who work full time, for the precise reason that they work different jobs.

    The result of your thinking is to overemphasize the issue of discrimination as being the driver for this earnings gap. It isn’t. The issue is that many women aren’t going into the most lucrative fields, and many aren’t staying in the workforce when they have kids. And the problem can be solved by encouraging women to go into higher paying fields, like stem fields, and encouraging men and women to play an equal role in childcare. This, I can tell you, will be much more effective than blaming the gap on discrimination and looking for a solution by trying to eliminate discrimination, because even if there were no discrimination, the wage gap would still be present for the reasons stated above.

    This is not to say that there is no discrimination in the workplace, of course there is. However, discrimination is not the principle explanation for the earnings gap between men and women, and as long as we continue to treat it as such, we will continue slowly on our 45 year trajectory towards gender pay equality.

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