Is The Gender-Pay Gap a Myth?

Equal Hours, Social Responsibilities & Feminism

The whole anti-feminist phenomenon surrounding equal pay has gotten a bit out of hand. People are claiming that the gender-wage gap is a myth, cooked up by middle-class liberals with nothing better to do than drink their fairtrade coffee whilst fretting over microbeads and climate change.

But guess what? It exists! Women are paid less than men for the same work, more so in professions with inflexible work hours. They are disproportionately expected to take on social and family responsibilities regardless of whether they work full-time- furthermore- they are generally valued as less than men when competing for the same job with identical qualifications.

(Also, microbeads are actually a real problem- you should google it!)

  1. Do women choose lower-paid occupations than men?

Of course not- women don’t seek out lower-wages- they are just more likely to prioritise passion over income and these passions are often in low-paid professions like teaching.

Math majors can get paid pretty well and 40 percent of them are women. But female math majors generally become teachers or apply for other low-paying positions, like those in nonprofits or academic institutions.”

However, it remains that women who have passions for fields such as law, business and medicine- who possess the same skills as their male counter-parts- still earn less than them.

Even full-time female physicians make about 24% less than their male colleagues overall”.

Women are valued as less by society, so their economic opportunities are generally lower in many ways. Wages fall when large numbers of women take over previously male roles.

The same thing happened when women in large numbers became designers (wages fell 34 percentage points)” whilst “the reverse was true when a job attracted more men. Computer programming, for instance, used to be a relatively menial role done by women. But when male programmers began to outnumber female ones, the job began paying more and gained prestige.”

  1. Is the gender-wage gap consistent among different professions?

No, it varies quite a bit. The size of the wage-gap can be hugely exasperated by inflexible jobs hours.

Social responsibilities -for example if an elderly relative or child is unwell- fall disproportionately on women in society. They are expected to take time off for these things, resulting in them completing fewer specific (9 to 5) hours, which costs them career opportunities (such as promotions), despite being able to make the hours up later.

Men are disproportionately penalised by their employers when they take on these responsibilities- which is unfair for sons and fathers who may want to take time off to care for an unwell family member.

This dilemma can be overcome by making working hours more flexible. A good example of this can be seen in the pharmacy profession.

Pharmacists used to have a significant wage gap. In 1970, women pharmacists earned about 66 percent of what men did. Now full-time female workers who work a full year make 92 percent of what their male colleagues earn — a significantly smaller gap than what is seen among doctors or lawyers.”

Independent pharmacies were bought by large chains, making all the work inter-changeable. People don’t care who gives them their medication, so pharmacists can choose their hours to suit them. Working 6am-2pm, became just as beneficial as working 9am-5pm and there is no specific benefit to working exceptionally long hours, so women don’t miss out.

Many industries could do the same to help close the wage gap in fields where women are particularly disadvantaged. Make hours more flexible, so the content of the work is the focus rather than working difficult hours.

Even companies would benefit from making hours more equal because those who work extra hours aren’t even more productive than those who do not.

It also means not giving disproportionate rewards to those willing to work the longest, either. Numerous studies find that long hours aren’t always productive.” Research shows “managers couldn’t tell the difference between those who worked an 80-hour week and those who pretended to.”

Thus, the companies would actually save money and be more efficient by introducing more equal hours.

This would also enable men to take on greater roles when caring for children or their parents, if they wished, without being disproportionately penalised for doing so.

Companies and society in general should value social responsibilities more and acknowledge the huge amount of unpaid work that many women and some men do, in terms of cooking, cleaning and caring. I don’t mean that the government should pay the men and women who do these things, just that we should all value and respect those people and make more of an effort to participate in the necessary unpaid labour of everyday life, so it isn’t just a female burden.

  1. Are women paid less because they are less demanding than men?

Nope, because if they were as demanding as men, they’d be penalised for it. Companies are less inclined to work with women who negotiate in job interviews. Women are snubbed if they make demands in the same way as men do in the work place.

In repeated studies, the social cost of negotiating for higher pay has been found to be greater for women than it is for men.”

Women are required to tread carefully in the work-place and can only negotiate promotions through language that is non-threatening and understanding towards the employer’s needs.

What’s Pure Discrimination?

Pure discrimination is when someone is treated less favourably, solely because of an existing prejudice against them.

The study below demonstrates how men with the same credentials as women are offered high starting salaries and more job opportunities as their female counterparts. Two fictitious individual with identical CVs were created and distributed to apply for a role as a lab manager. The only difference being one has the name Jennifer at the top, the other was named John. Over one hundred biologists, chemists and physicists were randomly assigned either Jennifer or John’s resume.

Because they perceived the female candidate as less competent, the scientists in the study were less willing to mentor Jennifer or to hire her as a lab manager. They also recommended paying her a lower salary. Jennifer was offered, on average, $4,000 per year (13%) less than John.”

This is a perfect example of the part of the wage gap which is directly due to pure discrimination. Jennifer could have had no social responsibilities and John could have been a single father and career for his own elderly father. Both could have been excellent lab managers, regardless of their social responsibilities. However, Jennifer automatically has less opportunity and earning potential simply because her gender is perceived as less competent or less-valued.

What should we do about it?

In terms of employment opportunities, randomly assigning Numerical IDs when assessing CVs could play a major role in reducing gender and racial discrimination against applicants.

Another way to reduce pure discrimination of all kinds is to force transparency so that people’s wages are public between those who do the same job, making it more obvious when workers are being under-paid.

There is a social stigma against this as people fear they will either be embarrassed if their wages are lower than others or snubbed if others think they are over-paid. However, this is stupid and we should all take a step towards transparency between the same occupations and roles, to force employers to pay us fairly for the same work. The employers already know how much everyone is paid, so we are at a disadvantage when we don’t know and share this information. Also, it enables you to quit and get a higher-paid job as you can see if you’d be better valued elsewhere.

As for the fact that society values women as less than men, progress is being made. The wage gap is becoming very gradually smaller. Increasing forms of media have begun to display strong female characters with real personalities rather than just eye-candy roles, from HBOs Girls to the Mindy Project. There’s still a long was to go, but it’s a start.

Should Islam be ‘more British’?

A short while ago, I happened to catch a TV debate on the programme Sunday Morning Live (SML) entitled: “Should Islam be more British?”

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Initially, I was curious to see what was said and continued to watch. By the end of the show, I found myself feeling insanely frustrated, but at first, I couldn’t figure out why.

Then, it dawned on me, there was nothing authentic or accurate about any part of the debate. My main gripe was in the title itself.

The tone of the debate suggested that Muslims have suddenly appeared pretty recently and they are isolated and clearly distinguishable from the main population- enforcing an ‘us’ vs ‘them’ mentality. Should THEY integrate and become more British? I was under the impression that this myth would be debunked throughout the debate; I was wrong.

Some guests argued that Muslims should become more British. How? By looking ‘less Muslim.’ It’s almost as if showing any signs of religion makes people uncomfortable, so it should be hidden to make others feel better.

This is absurd as Muslims have been here for generations and we have already ‘integrated’! Not all people who are Muslim look or act the same. Not all Muslims wear the stereotypical headscarves and prayer caps or grow beards. There are probably many people you know that you may not think of as ‘Muslim’ because your idea of Islam and Muslims comes from negative media coverage.

Integration has already occurred. My mother is a devout Muslim liberalist; her best friend is an Indian Hindu Nationalist. They have constant debates ranging from the referendum to the concept of the welfare state and always disagree and have a laugh about it. When it’s one of the kids’ birthdays or someone gets a promotion, we’ll go out to eat together. The meat is halal, my mother’s friend doesn’t eat meat although her kids do, so sometimes we just keep it veggie.

Both of my neighbours are Jewish and when they visit Israel in the holidays, they leave their keys with us in case the alarm goes off, they direct their deliveries to our door and they ask us to babysit when they want some time out from their kids. Yes, we support the movement to Boycott Israel and Free Palestine, but politics and the Middle East do not really come up in our conversations and we get on just fine.

The lady who lives opposite us was a meal time supervisor when my siblings and I were at primary school. When her grandchildren have gone back to their parents’ home, she gives us all the sweets left in her cupboard. My mum makes scones and marble cake for her sometimes. She voted for the BNP and she’s concerned about the Chinese after reading the Daily Mail.

On TV, people who don’t agree, don’t hang out. But in real life we do. The people on TV seem to be so far out from the reality which surrounds us. The truth is that we’ve already integrated as you have to in order to get along in the community. Many of our colleagues, friends and even our family are non-Muslims and we get along just fine. Anyone who thinks differently, should actually meet some people who are Muslim and find out for themselves.

So often I see things on TV and I know they don’t represent Islam. However, it’s particularly frustrating when the chance for authentic debate arises- such as in the case of this episode of SML- and real discussion about the tone of the question is completely avoided. Even those who were supposed to be arguing that Islam doesn’t need to be more British seemed to be walking on eggshells. Rather than de-bunking the question, their contribution was simply along the lines of “some Muslims are good?”

I guess I just wish that someone on the Sunday Morning Live TV debate could have said that we have been here all along and integrated just as all the other minorities have, so we could have been provided with a dose of reality and realise how stupid the whole thing is.

Yes, there are problems within Muslim communities as there are in all communities, but being British isn’t one of them.

The Politics of Cigarettes

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In the spirit of Easter, I’m sure many people will be trying to quit smoking. Although “the percentage of smokers is declining across the developed world” 1, many struggle to stop. Often rants concerning health and empathy are employed in this battle. However, I believe they’re utterly unconvincing and I will explain why. Fortunately, some hope remains as I’ve collected all the arguments which would convince me to kick the habit if I were an addict. These arguments concern where the money goes and the ideas associated with cigarettes. Shedding some new light on them may help us understand the issue from a new perspective. Hopeful, you too will find them useful or at least interesting.

We don’t feel directly affected by cigarettes

Smoking is bad for you. “About 17,000 children under five years old in England and Wales are admitted to hospital each year due to illnesses caused by their parents’ smoking.” 2 But no one cares. Why? Because the effects of smoking are indirect. For example, the risk of death is approximately four times higher when a pedestrian is hit at 40mph than at 30mph, yet we still drive as fast as the speed limit allows.3 We just don’t think that statistics include us, because they are indirect. To illustrate this further, we are told cigarettes contain poison, but we don’t fall to the ground and suffocate at one puff, so how harmful can it really be? Well, it’s sort of like taking a pill daily to shorten your life span and increase the likelihood of a difficult and unsavoury death. So, I would say quite harmful. 80% of cigarette smoke is invisible. However, people still don’t care, which is why health arguments can be frustratingly ineffective. Although I don’t have a solution to this, I believe economic and political arguments can be more convincing.

Smoke and Mirrors: Are we rebelling or obeying?

Cigarettes are often portrayed as a sign of rebellion. People want to stick it to the man. Live on the edge. Have some control over their lives. But with the government making £12 billion annually from the cigarette tax, how effective is this rebellion? Whenever something is that harmful to you, the reason you are doing it is never really what you think it is. There is always someone profiting from your misfortune, whether it be cigarette companies or the government.

For example, the Red Brigades 4 in Italy was a Marxist terrorist organisation who opposed the government. But what people often don’t realise is that terrorist organisations are business corporations which require and make billions of dollars a year. People who wanted to join the organisation were tested, not to see how knowledgeable they were about Marxism, but to test how good they were at following orders. The head of the organisation was a businessman with his own agenda. Education wasn’t important. People who don’t question their orders were. I’m sure those who were allowed to join the Red Brigades thought they were conscious agents of change, but instead they were just being used to drive the agenda of terrorist business and commit atrocities for this cause. Personally, to devote my life to someone else’s insecure agenda just seems absurd. If an organisation wants change it should at least want literate members who understand the depth and options the ideology brings about. It should allow for discussion to weed out all the flaws, otherwise it is just as unreliable as a dictatorship.

There is a parallel with smoking. I would never argue that smoking should be banned because although I believe it has no benefits to consumers, doing so would infringe on the rights of the people. The only organisations who have anything to gain are the tobacco industry and the government.

In 2010, the combined profits of the six leading tobacco companies was “$35.1 billion”, equal to the combined profits of Coca-Cola, Microsoft, and McDonald’s in the same year. 5

Poorer people are more likely to be victims of addiction

There is also a correlation between socio-economic class and smoking.

“Over recent decades, the overall prevalence of smoking has decreased among men in many countries, whereas among women smoking has remained at the same level or even increased. However, these changes have not happened equally across all population groups. In most industrial societies smoking has increasingly been concentrated among the socio-economically disadvantaged.”6

The role of the government is questionable

I do not wish to support conspiracies against the government; it just seems that they will benefit from the situation either way. If everyone stopped smoking they’d claim their anti-smoking campaigns had been a huge success, whilst if everyone continued smoking they’d be content with the economic gain they are making.

The media convinces us that those who smoke are working-class, uneducated scroungers who cost the taxpayer billions of pounds through the NHS and their smoking related illnesses. They make us inclined to believe those smokers are a burden on society. However, this is far from the truth. The government make £12 billion annually from the cigarette tax, whilst smoking related illnesses only costs the NHS 2 billion pounds a year! Of course there are other costs that the government deduct in their cost benefit analysis, such as “the loss in productivity due to premature deaths (£3bn)” 7. However I have chosen not to consider them because I don’t think the purpose of living is to contribute tax to the government; I’m more concerned that people are missing out on the chance to enjoy their full living potential. We don’t have a right to consider the tax they might continue to contribute if they hadn’t died as an injustice to the government. It just seems strange, vague and unethical. What if the smoker decided to move abroad? In contrast, the NHS is a different matter and is likely to directly affect all citizens at some point in their life. It’s also strange that “social care costs of older smokers (£1.1bn)” 7 are considered in government calculations, yet the money saved in pensions is not.

The example presented in ‘Justice’ by political philosopher Michael Scandal really drills this point home. Philip Morris conducted a cost-benefit analysis in the Czech Republic to convince the government not to raise taxes on cigarettes. Their research showed that although smokers impose higher medical costs whilst alive, they die early, saving the government considerable sums in healthcare, pensions and housing for the elderly. Once the ‘positive’ effects of smoking are considered –including cigarette tax revenues and savings due to premature deaths of smokers- the net gain to the treasury is $147 million per year. The Czech government saved $1,227 as a result of each smoking-related death.

Ultimately, smoking isn’t what it used to be. Personally, I find evidence which demonstrates that I’m giving the government and big corporations’ money for something which is supposed to be an act of rebellion ironic -especially if it’s costing me “£7.46” 9 a pack. Smoking is political tool exploited by the government and industry. Hence, to continue smoking supports this exploitation. The smokers are not to blame, but have the freewill to commit to quitting and fighting their addiction.

Side Note- I considered denouncing the role of the film industry in glamorising tobacco, but I honestly think it is mostly harmless as long as the viewers are old enough to understand the actors aren’t actually smoking, but just appear to be for dramatic effect… All sources of evidence can be found below.

1) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/8246967/Smoking-could-disappear-by-2050-says-Citigroup.html

2) http://www.patient.co.uk/health/smoking-the-facts

3) http://think.direct.gov.uk/speed.html

4) http://www.ted.com/talks/loretta_napoleoni_the_intricate_economics_of_terrorism?language=en

5) http://www.worldlungfoundation.org/ht/display/ReleaseDetails/i/20439/pid/6858

6) http://eurpub.oxfordjournals.org/content/15/3/262

7) http://www.ash.org.uk/files/documents/ASH_121.pdf

8) https://fullfact.org/factchecks/does_smoking_cost_as_much_as_it_makes_for_the_treasury-29288

9) http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2012/mar/21/budget-2012-hits-smokers-37p