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!)
- 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.
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.”
- 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.
- 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.