Equal Pay Day was Tuesday April 4th this year. This date is significant because it reflects how far into the next year women need to work in order for their earnings to be equivalent to what men earned the previous year. The National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) created Equal Pay Day to illustrate the gap between men’s and women’s wages.
However, not everyone believes there is an actual gender pay gap. Two “scholars” from the American Enterprise institute – one who is also a professor of economics at the University of Michigan’s Flint campus – have coauthored an article claiming that the “so-called” gender pay gap is a myth.
They claim that “men and women make very different career and work choices, and frequently play very different family roles, especially for families with children. Those choices reasonably account for most of gender differences in earnings and don’t point toward widespread gender pay discrimination in the workplace.”
They refer to studies that suggest that the main factors affecting salary are the skills and productivity which an employee brings to a job. If this is the case, why do male registered nurses make over $5,000 more per year than female registered nurses? According to a study led by University of California the earnings of male nurses far outpace those of female nurses. An article in Physicians Weekly also backs up the fact that despite being a minority in the nursing profession, men out earn women with an average of $60,700, compared to $51,100.
When men start to enter a field dominated by women, their wages increase. For instance, computer programming, was at one time dominated by females and considered menial work. When men began to enter and eventually dominate the field, the career gained prestige and an elevated pay grade. Just the opposite is true when women enter a male dominated field. When more women start to enter a field dominated by men, those positions start paying less as is the case with pharmacists and biologists.
One of the most laughable assertions in the article is that the “undesirable aspects of certain jobs” are what keep women from entering into more lucrative fields. One example of an undesirable aspect given states that “men have longer average commute times to their jobs than women”. And the authors ask, “How much extra pay would you demand to spend the equivalent of nine additional eight-hour days sitting in traffic or on a bus riding to work?” Really? First of all I could not find a comparable basis for the statement that men have a longer commute time than women. Additionally, it seems ridiculous to reason that commute time is an acceptable justification for a gender pay gap.
The fact is that wages are not set randomly – there are societal forces that influence how work is valued.
As a society, it is unfortunate that there needs to be an Equal Pay Day to call attention to this problem. Someday, hopefully, we can change our social stereotypes and challenge the way we determine the value of work. Jobs having the same value to employers should be paid the same whether performed by women or men.