The Truth(?) about the Gender Wage Gap
As the presidential race ensues, certain points of discussion form a list of ‘hot topics.’ Some candidates would rather avoid such topics, while others cannot seem to keep themselves from delving into them. The subject of the apparent gender wage gap is certainly one such issue. Just like the presidential candidates, some people avoid this discussion because all chaos breaks out when the wage gap is put under any sort of scrutiny. Some other people embrace this subject, and a feeling of discrimination and injustice demands that they bring it to the light. Both are fair approaches, but there is a common dilemma with this gender wage gap statistic that questions its credibility soundly and simply.
“Women still earn 77 cents on Men’s dollar” – both Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have been known to profess this adamantly. Why do economists contend this statement? In reality, the 77 percent median income statistic tells us absolutely nothing about the differences that explain the differences in income. Walter E. Williams, a renowned and awarded American economist describes in detail the reasons for differences in income in his article “Wage Discrimination’. He points out that many people attribute the so called wage gap to “greedy corporations” that scheme against the best interest of women. The truth of the matter is that women and men in general pursue different career paths which happen to have different levels of income –
“According to 2010 BLS data, the following jobs contain 1 percent or less female workers: boilermakers, brick masonry, stone-masonry, septic tank servicing, sewer pipe cleaners and trash collectors. By contrast, women are 97 percent of preschool and kindergarten teachers, 80 percent of social workers, 82 percent of librarians and 92 percent of dietitians and nutritionists and registered nurses” (Williams)
Clearly, men and women want different jobs. Far more men become petroleum engineers, who have a nearly six-figure starting salary, than women. Even to those who say women get paid less to do the same job; “[F]emale doctors earn only 64 percent of what male doctors earn. But it turns out that only 16 percent of surgeons are women, whereas 50 percent of pediatricians are women. Even though surgeons have put in many more years of education and training than pediatricians and earn higher pay, is it really expected to equalize their salaries?” (Williams). A shift in perspective would allow Americans to see the truth about the gender wage gap, and put their resources, time, and energy into greater (and more substantive) discrimination issues.
All in all, the 77 percent income disparity does not encapsulate reality, and victimizes those who need not be considered a victim. It ‘villainizes’ those who have no justified reason to be considered villains. This exemplifies the notion that the majority of people struggle to clearly recognize the realities of this situation. Many attribute the blame on ‘big and greedy corporations’ that have little to do with the topic. Many blame the government for not taking swift enough action toward this apparent form of discrimination. However, such people cannot identify a single businessman or politician that is solely responsible for the gender wage gap. Blame is placed without a full understanding of the statistics and research findings on the subject. The gender wage gap mandates that outside elements influence their salaries, rendering them completely helpless. If an individual is able to perceive and understand the researched statistics and findings, like the reasons for differences in salaries between men and women, then the truth will be clear.