I want men and women to have the same opportunities and because of awesome feminists before me I don’t have to worry about that. Men and women both have the right to vote, divorce, own a bank account, run their own business, serve in the military, play sports etc. Growing up there wasn’t a single thing my brother was allowed to do that I wasn’t, and I am grateful for that. America is a pretty rad place to be a woman and I hit the jackpot when I was born here.
Despite all the opportunities women have in America, third wave feminists tell me I’m still facing systemic oppression. One of the ways feminists say I am disadvantaged is the “wage gap” between men and women. Let me break down why this is utter nonsense.
Chelsea Clinton recently shared this map showing the differences in wages between men and women in each state. It’s true, women on average make less than men but there is no evidence it is because women are discriminated against. Seeing data like this map and immediately blaming gender discrimination shows a deep misunderstanding of how to analyze data.
This map doesn’t control for the many reasons men and women have differences in their wages. What is a control? It basically means “all other things equal.” It’s a way researchers make sure they aren’t falsely attributing causation.
Here’s a simple example. Over a year ago I ran a Boston qualifying marathon. I waited a year and with a different pair of shoes I ran another marathon about a half hour slower. Now if I came to you and said, “I ran a half hour slower, it’s because of the shoes!” you’d probably say “well wait a minute, maybe, but how much did you train for the second one?” Then you’d ask how hard each course was, then you’d ask about weather, then you’d ask about how much sleep I got the night before each race, then you’d ask what I ate for breakfast each day, then you’d ask me how much I weighed for each race…and so on and so forth. And the only way you’d know my shoes were indeed the reason I ran slower would be if every component of each race was the same, except for my shoes.
The same thing goes for differences in wage between men and women. If you really want to know if there is gender discrimination you’re going to have to control for many things, but here are the top three that jump to my mind.
- Children – Only women get pregnant. If you get pregnant you will have to take some time off which sets you behind your male counterparts in terms of experience. Some women stop working all together. Some women go part-time. Obviously this brings the average wage for women down.
- Choice of Profession – Men and women are not drawn to the same professions at an equal rate. That’s because men and women have different brain chemistry. A study done by the National Autonomous University of Mexico found that men and women differ in how compassion is experienced and expressed. Because women on average absorb more emotive information, are more patient, and more reflective they are naturally drawn to positions that put these skills to use. These tend to be lower paying jobs in fields such as social work, esthetics, education etc. And no, these jobs aren’t lower paying because women typically have them, they’re lower paying because they are jobs that don’t contribute to the sale of a product. For example, when Apple sells more computers they earn more money and can pay their employees more. When the Red Cross receives more blood donations their budget doesn’t change at all and everyone’s salary stays the same.
Men on the other hand, are generally more interested in direct information, physical work and constantly changing environments. Men are drawn to fields that exploit these interests such as carpentry, commercial fishing and computer science. These tend to be higher paying fields. There is no evidence that men are keeping women out of construction (97.4% male) or that women are keeping men out of nursing (92.1% female). What does seem clear is that men are more drawn to some fields and women to others. And that’s ok.
- Women aren’t as career obsessed – Poll after poll after poll tell us that the average woman is more interested in staying at home to raise children than working for someone else. Men also work more on-the-clock hours than women. Employed men on average work 42 minutes more per day than employed women. Women also aren’t as interested as men in even having leadership positions. According to a Rochester Institute of Technology study, money is the primary motivator for 76% of men vs 29% of women. Women care about shorter work weeks, proximity to home, fulfillment, autonomy and safety more than the paycheck. So even comparing women and men with the same education, in the same career field has additional components one must control for if wanting to prove discrimination.
Do women make less than men on average? Absolutely. Is there evidence of discrimination? Not really.
So has there been a study that controlled for everything but gender? Well, that would be very difficult to do as factors like motivation, aspiration, etc. are hard to measure but what we do know is single women without children in major cities earn more than men. That’s right, when you take families out of the picture, young women make more than men. Let me say that one more time to be clear; when you control for the above point number one (children), women make more than men. According to the the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the median pay for young childless women is 8% higher than men in their peer group.
Probably because of sites like the Huffington Post that spit out nonsense along these lines; women may choose career paths that aren’t as financially lucrative but that’s not because they are freely choosing to do so! It’s because sexist stereotypes force them to.
This in itself is a sexist argument. The idea that modern American women can’t make intelligent career decisions for themselves based on their own needs and preferences is insulting. The notion that we can’t make decisions for ourselves opens the floodgates for more, not less control over women’s lives. If we’re deemed too “brainwashed” by the patriarchy to make our own career decisions, what’s to stop someone from claiming they should not only make those decisions for us, but decisions on where we should live, or who we should marry or what we should wear. It’s actually an archaic idea, one I thought we had moved past.
What’s more is there is evidence of the opposite, that in fact women today are more capable than ever of making their own decisions. Since the 1970s women have been more likely to graduate from high school than men. Women are more educated than men earning 57.4% of all bachelor degrees in 2010 and 58% of all graduate degrees. And from an anecdotal standpoint, I have never in my life heard a female friend tell me she chose her career despite having no interest in it because it was one women should do. Maybe women are just smart enough to know a paycheck doesn’t mean everything.
Young childless women make more than their male counterparts but that’s not where the differences that favor females stop. Men have made up 97% of combat deaths since the first Gulf War and 93% of work related deaths. Are there man-hating sexists forcing men into dangerous jobs or is this the result of free choice and human biology? I know I am not physically strong enough to do many of the high paying but dangerous jobs that men do. The fact that I can’t stack hay like my brother or even move my stuff into a new house as quickly and efficiently as him is just a fact of life and nothing for me to feel embarrassed about.
There’s one more example wage gap propagators throw out that I would like to address. The U.S. Women’s soccer team. (*Note. One example, or even ten examples of women getting paid less than men doesn’t prove systemic sexism exists but I’ll play along). It’s true that the women’s soccer team made far less than their male counterparts in 2015 even though they had a much better year (they won the World Cup). But despite what you might think, athletes aren’t paid based on how much they win anymore than singers are paid based on how talented they are. Oftentimes talent and salary coincide but it’s not actually the driving factor behind pay. No, athletes and singers are paid based on the amount of money they make for their employer. Sorry to say it, but women athletes just don’t fill seats like male athletes, meaning they don’t bring in the revenue, and therefore are paid less. Even in 2015, the year the women’s team won the World Cup, revenue brought in by the men’s team was about $11 million more than the women’s team. If you want female athletes, entertainers, artists, etc. to succeed, buy more of their product, attend more of their events, and watch more of them on t.v. Case in point, Taylor Swift was the highest grossing singer of 2016, but I think we can all agree she’s not the most talented singer in the business. People bought her product and she made lots of money. A simple concept really.
Now I will grant you this, 2016 was the first year ever that the women’s team did in fact make more than the men’s team. A “coming home” celebration tour helped the women edge out the men by $4 million in revenue. This is the first and only year it has ever happened. Ratings for men’s games have been more than double those for women’s games, on average, since 2012, according to Nielsen calculations. Regular season men’s team’s ratings are almost four times as high as women’s. For how huge those differences in ratings are, women actually are paid pretty fairly. At least five men and five women have been paid over a million dollars since 2008. In fact, the 10th highest paid female player received over $100,000 more than her male counterpart. I would expect that if women continue the 2016 trend of creating more revenue than their male counterparts their salaries will rise, but to immediately call out sexism after a potentially fluke year is not a reaction founded in reason. An excellent piece by the New York Times explained the pay disparities in more depth.
Of course there are still sexist people out there who will treat men and women differently. There will always be sexist people (in both directions) and when they are discovered they should be dealt with accordingly. But there are 319 million people in America and the vast majority of us don’t care about gender but rather who can do the job most efficiently and effectively. So can we move on already?
*Cover Image from The Dallas Morning News