Women, men, and money

Emotion is the death of reason

In the summer of 1963, President Kennedy signed into law the Equal Pay Act of 1963. In doing so, he ensured that, in terms of compensation, never again would employers be able to discriminate among employees on the basis of sex.

This was a huge step forward for both the women’s rights movement and our country as a whole. But if you’ve paid attention to the popular media today, you’d be inclined to believe that in 2017, a gender wage gap still exists.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Paying a man and a woman different wages for the same work is, as noted above, illegal. The common narrative is that, for every dollar a man is paid, a woman is paid 78 cents, resulting in a 22 cent wage gap.

But let’s take a step back for a moment and examine the implications of such a statement. 
If this were true, I, as a man, wouldn’t be able to find a job after graduation. Capitalism is the least discriminatory economic system in history because capitalism cares about one thing and one thing alone–money.

Capitalism doesn’t care if you’re black, white, brown, gay, straight, male, female, trans or any number of things as long as you are monetarily beneficial. So, if employers could pay women 22 percent less than they pay men, it would be nearly impossible for men to find employment because all the jobs would be staffed by more cost effective women. 

This, of course, isn’t the case.

To understand the 78 cent narrative, one must understand how it’s calculated. To calculate a 22 percent difference, the median earnings of all women working full time are divided by the median earnings of all men working full time. 

Therefore, it would be correct to cite a 22 percent earnings gap between men and women. How is that any different?

The distinction is enormous. 

This statistic fails to take into account overtime hours worked, education level, experience, position or even occupation.

In practice, this is like criticizing McDonald’s for paying a manager who worked 45 hours a week more than it paid an entry level employee who only worked 40 hours. The difference lies in the choices the employees made and the responsibility of their positions. 

In a society where women make up nearly 58 percent of higher education enrollment, it seems as though it might be beneficial to examine the types of career choices women are making.
According to a Georgetown University study, of the top five earning undergraduate majors, women make up a majority in only one field. In the five lowest earning undergraduate majors, the opposite is true–men make up a majority in only one field.

Combine this with the fact that women are less likely to work longer hours and commit to higher responsibility positions because of domestic obligations and familial factors, and it becomes clear why, on average, women earn less in the U.S.–because of career choices.
In the words of the U.S. Department of Labor and CONSAD Research Group, “The oft-cited .23 wage gap may be almost entirely the result of individual choices being made by both male and female workers”

In short, women earn less–they aren’t paid less.

There are real women’s rights issues we need to be dealing with, like the sexual objectification of women and the fact that we, as a nation, are allies with countries that conduct honor killings and prevent women from driving, among other things.

As a society, we must stop telling our daughters that, every time they fail, an invisible and systematic discriminatory system is to blame. Instead, we should be instilling principles of personal responsibility and an insatiable desire to succeed within our girls.

From the time they enter this world, our girls must know that they are inherently worth as much as any man, and the only way to do that is through open and honest discussion of difficult issues like this one.