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Sexism & Gender Wage Gap: Deconstructing the Myths

Discrimination has been the center of public attention over the past couple of years. People’s outrage fueled so many protests against police brutality and marches for equality. The United States is a country, which prides itself in the freedom its citizens enjoy and the historical background of America as a liberating and progressive force. However, Americans continue to challenge themselves to do better in regards to creating a society without discrimination and social injustice. The issue of gender equality is constantly on the radars of activists and politicians, who want to provide women with the same exact opportunities as men. Therefore, it is no wonder why the infamous statistics that a woman makes 80 cents per every dollar a man makes has created such a media buzz. Looking at data from a number of government agencies reveals that women do, in fact, make less money than men. However, many experts on gender inequality agree the situation is not simply black and white since the statistics are torn out of context. Those opposing the wage equality initiatives believe that a gender earnings gap has little to do with gender discrimination; women’s personal and professional choices explain the differences in income between male and female workers.

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In order to deconstruct the myths related to gender and salary, it is important to examine how the gender ‘wage gap’ is calculated. The common figure of 80 cents versus a dollar is derived by first “taking the total annual earnings of men in the American economy in a given year and dividing that by the number of male workers,” which becomes an estimate of average annual earnings of men (Phelan). Then, experts take the total amount of money women have made in a year and divide it by the total number of female workers in the country. Therefore, there is no real gender wage gap; the statistics do not reflect the difference in the amount of money a man or a woman makes working in the same position at the same company (Phelan). This data demonstrates the overall disparity in average income of America’s male and female population (Perry). For instance, work-related choices play a big part in gender wage distribution since men disproportionately choose higher-paying, higher-risk, and physically demanding occupations (e.g. mining, construction, logging, etc.) (Perry). As a result, it is crucial to uncover the reasons behind the gender gap in earnings and understand why women make less overall, rather than supporting the distribution of fake news from media outlets that try to manipulate the public.

It is quite rational that people, who work less hours, take less overtime and more time off, as well as choose lower-risk jobs tend to make less money than those who do the opposite. Evidently, there are gender differences that contribute to the gender gap in the labor market, which explains the 20% variance mentioned before. These differences usually favor men and, thus, help explain the gender earnings gap. Women are much less exposed to occupational injuries and fatalities since they account for just 7% of workplace fatalities (Perry). Male population selects jobs with lower personal fulfillment, the worst shifts, and longer commute hours (Perry). Men are also likely to have more years of uninterrupted experience in their current position with the same employer, which affects their chances of being promoted (Perry). However, the most telling figure is the actual amount of time women work, compared to men. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that, in 2019, men worked for 7.97 hours (as a daily average), while women stayed at work for less than 7.18 hours. Less work amounts to less money and not a lot of professional opportunities (Phelan). Thus, women’s income is lower on average and female workers are less likely to get a promotion. All of these gender gaps factor in the total average income of a male versus a female worker.

A recent Harvard study reveals that the gender earnings gap is primarily associated with the amount of time one works. Valentin Bolotnyy and Natalia Emanuel decided to examine the data from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (1). MBTA is “a union shop with uniform hourly wages where men and women adhere to the same rules and receive the same benefits” (Phelan). The company promotes workers based on seniority, and not performance. Therefore, there are virtually no opportunities for sexist bosses to favor one gender over the other. It would be logical to assume that in a company such as MBTA there are no gender differences in earnings. However, Bolotnyy and Emanuel demonstrate that male bus and train operators earn more than their female counterparts (17). The researchers’ findings indicated that “male train and bus drivers worked about 83 percent more overtime than their female colleagues and were twice as likely to accept an overtime shift—which pays time-and-a-half—on short notice” (Phelan). Simple math would explain that the reason behind the gender earnings gap at MBTA is not discrimination, but job commitment and overall efficiency.

The media presents the public with data providing no additional explanations. Thus, people develop a general idea of the issue based on the morphed reality created by self-interested media conglomerates. The articles found online try to persuade readers that gender discrimination is a deciding factor in the gender ‘wage’ gap (Renzulli). Rose and Hartmann from the Washington Institute for Women’s Policy Research argue that women are almost twice as likely as men to take at least one year off work, which negatively affects their career in the long run. Women, who left their job for a year, earned almost 39% less than men, who started their professional journey at the company at the similar time (Rose and Hartmann). The study indicates that companies are likely to pay more to employees, who do not leave their jobs at any point, regardless of gender (Rose and Hartmann). The right way to battle gender earnings gap is to facilitate socio-political initiatives, which would help eliminate gender differences in work-related decisions (Perry). Paying people more would not be effective; however, governments could try to issue regulations that would equal numbers of candidates of each gender being interviewed for the same positions.

Apart from the total amount of time women and men spend working, it is important to acknowledge the differences in the industries male and female populations prefer for employment. A new report from Glassdoor examined the salaries of 425,000 full-time employees in the United States. The data showed that women earned more than 22% less than men on average (Renzulli). However, when Glassdoor “refined that comparison further to include only workers who also had the same job title and similar employers and locations, the gap fell to 4.9 percent” (Renzulli). The data collected by Glassdoor demonstrates that gender industry segregation, or the tendency of men and women to pursue occupations that pay differently, is “the largest driver of the gender pay gap, accounting for about 56.5 percent of the overall unadjusted pay gap” (Renzulli). In addition, it is important to note that men are usually the ones who choose the highest paid industries, which are the ones with the biggest risks as well (Perry). Gender discrimination in wages and sexist workplaces are supported by the data, which is why media needs to stop pushing the false narrative to the masses.

Political leaders try to manipulate the public and victimize women in order to receive their support in the election. America has a long history of using social issues and weaponizing them against political opponents, instead of starting actual initiatives to help and support minorities/oppressed groups. Liberal media networks such as CNN and NBC often try to spin the gender wage gap narrative out of control by “exposing” those who look at the actual statistics as close-minded and sexist (Renzulli). The Obama administration included the 80 cents versus a dollar statistics in the re-election campaign in order to demonstrate the voters what exactly the President is doing to ensure equal pay (Phelan). The administration, however, never mentioned that the Equal Pay Act put a stop to unequal wages between men and women back in 1963 (Phelan). Paying women less for the same exact job at the same place has been illegal for nearly six decades.

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To sum it all up, there are gender differences in what a man and a woman make on average. However, the gap does not stem from sexism since female workers get as much money for the same exact amount of work done as men. Instead, the disparity comes from a number of factors, which are primarily connected to women’s choices. Media and politicians try to manipulate the data in order to attract the attention of the public. It is crucial to acknowledge the real reasons for the gender earnings gap and generate effective strategies to battle the differences if needed.

Works Cited

Bolotnyy, Valentin, and Natalia Emanuel. Why Do Women Earn Less than Men? Evidence from Bus and Train Operators. 2020. Harvard U, Working paper. Harvard Scholar.

Perry, Mark J. “There Really Is No ‘Gender Wage Gap.’” American Enterprise Institute, 2017, Web.

Phelan, John. “Harvard Study: “Gender Wage Gap” Explained Entirely by Work Choices of Men and Women.” Foundation for Economic Education. 2018, Web.

Renzulli, Kerri Anne. “46% of American Men Think the Gender Pay Gap Is ‘Made Up to Serve a Political Purpose.’” CNBC. 2019, Web.

Rose, Stephen J., and Heidi Hartmann. “Still a Man’s Labor Market: The Slowly Narrowing Gender Wage Gap.” VOCED plus. 2018, Web.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employed Persons Working and Time Spent Working on Days Worked by Full- and Part-Time Status and Sex, Jobholding Status, Educational Attainment, and Day of Week, 2019 Annual Averages. BLS, 2020, Web.

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