Unbundling the Pay Gap
Headlines proclaim that a woman earns 79 centsâgive or take a cent or twoâto every dollar earned by a man. This number is generally not disputed. However, the reason for the 21 cent discrepancy is.
In her article âWhy the Gender Gap Wonât Go Away. Ever,â Kay Hymowitz asserts that we should not take these statistics at face valueâwe need to dig deeper. Who can argue with that? But Hymowitz and I do our digging very differentlyâand come to very different conclusions. She believes that those who publish these numbers are part of a conspiracy (my word not hers) to âuse misleading statistics to confirm what you already believe.â (Her words not mine).
According to Hymowitz, the vast majority of the pay gap is due to womenâs choosing the âmommy track.â She contends that women who work full-time put in fewer hours than menâbecause they are on the mommy track–and pick their jobs accordingly.
Says Hymowitz, âThe full-time category embrace[s] everyone from a law clerk who arrives at her desk at 9am and leaves promptly at 4pm to a trial lawyer who eats dinner four nights a weekâand lunch on weekendsâat his desk. I assume, in this case, that the clerk is a woman and the lawyer is a man for the simple reason thatâand here is an average proofers rarely mentionâfull-time men work more hours than full-time women do.â
Oh Kay! You are not digging thoughtfully. The important piece of data here isnât that weâre working fewer hours (I know a lot of female professionals who would dispute that), itâs that weâre garnering fewer high-level, high-paying jobs. If you have ever heard Gail Evans, author of Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman, speak, you would know that she doesnât believe that those at the top of organizations work harderâor longer hours. Many women would gladly take those loftier, higher-paying positionsâif they could get them.
Recently, Catalyst, The New York Times and others have published thought-provoking articles about unintended discrimination in the workplace and the consequences on women, salaries and promotions that perhaps Hymowitz should read.
It seems irresponsible to continually blame womenâs lack of advancement in the workplace on family/work-life balance issues. So the next time you read statistics âprovingâ that itâs the choices we make that keep our pay at the fraction of menâs, go the extra step. Ask whatâs behind those statistics. You may not want to believe everything you read.
By Erin Wolf
December 1st, 2021
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