unpopular-opinions-the-wage-gap-isnt-down-to-the-patriarchy

If there’s one way to become even more hated after writing an article on why you’re not a feminist, it’s following said article up with another criticising a common talking point of the movement: the wage gap.

A quick (but very important) disclaimer to begin with: I do not believe the wage gap is a myth. Of course, it does exist. We can see in reports all the way from government data to research carried out by independent institutions that women do, on average, earn less than men. This is not, however, due to the dreaded patriarchy of rich white men sat around a table actively trying to push women to the bottom of society (as it seems some would like to have you believe).

Rather, the higher earnings of men are a result of several smaller factors that each play a varying role in determining the earnings of an employee.

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I understand many people take issue with this statement. They believe that statistics supporting the wage gap take into account said factors and continue to show that a woman who does identical work to a man does not earn an identical wage.

This simply is not true.

First of all, since the introduction of the Equal Pay Act of 1970 – as well as its counterpart in 28 EU member states and countless other countries across the world – paying a woman less than a man for the same work has been illegal.

This, of course, would mean that the thousands of companies across the UK alone with over 250 employees would legally be required to report gender pay gap figures by the end of the financial year (a law enforced since April 2017).

The commonly cited statistic is that “women make 77p for even £1 a man makes”, or at least something close to this number. This figure is achieved quite simply, as many of these studies will outline within their methodology: the earnings of all men are added up, and the earnings of all women are added up. Each number is then divided by the number of employees to find an average. The problem with such a broad average is that it simply does not account for many of the aforementioned decisions that are likely to have an impact upon one’s earnings, which I will get to in a second.

Interestingly enough, even several feminist organisations, such as the American Association of University Women, have observed that this wage gap reduces to (in American currency), under seven cents when different choices are factored in.

But what are these choices? In 2015, Georgetown University released a report breaking down a list of its highest and lowest-paying degrees. It found that out of its top five highest-paying degrees (which included the likes of Petroleum Engineering and Aerospace Engineering), just one of these was female-dominated.

What’s more is that out of its five lowest-paying degrees (among which were Psychology and Early Childhood Education), four of these were female-dominated. Unless women are being forced to take, more often than their male counterparts, lower-paying degrees, there is nothing to say. Nothing other than that these lower average earnings come as a result of nothing other than choice.

“Yes, but even within those fields, men still out-earn women, don’t they?”

Let’s take a look at the field of nursing which, like primary school teaching, is known to be one with a much higher proportion of women. Nursing and Sociological Studies Professor Linda H. Aiken gathers from her own data and from that of many others that “practice pattern differences, career choices and educational differences explain most, if not all of the gender pay gap in nursing.”

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So, why is there even a gap at all? Yes, the gap is reduced to a fraction of the statistics which feminists love to use, but surely in a society of equal pay, we should see no gap whatsoever?

There will, of course, always be more miniscule variables which no study can accurately observe. For instance, men are vastly overrepresented in more dangerous occupations – according to the Health and Safety Executive, 95% of all workplace fatalities are men.

As well as this, willingness to work at short notice, and for longer hours, are all factors that are extremely difficult to study to the same extent as, say, a degree’s earnings after graduation.

The frustration of many women is perfectly understandable – even this year, the International Women’s Day article here on b**p showed that just 24 of Fortune’s Top 500 list CEOs were female, which is under 5%.

However, nobody is denying that women have historically been horrendously underrepresented in the workforce. Becoming a wealthy CEO is not something that happens overnight, and so expecting an immediate 50/50 gender split among CEOs is both misleading and unrealistic.

If it truly were fine for companies to underpay their female employees in this supposedly ruthless capitalist age of profit-seeking, then why wouldn’t they simply hire all women?