Feminism : Wage Gap.
Feminism and Vegans, two sections of the society who are growing louder with each passing day. They are all over, from social media to debates on prime time television! With all the chaos around me, I felt to feed the urge of comprehending feminism and understand what the noise was all about.
I know a lot of women in life who without batting an eyelid have plastered themselves as feminists. To be honest most of them are not even attempting at solving or working towards any of the feminist “ideologies” or even worse don’t have an understanding of what feminism actually means. But this does not stop them from pouring social media with hashtags (#) like “Women support Women”, “Women are the future”, “Women for Equal Pay” amongst others. T shirts with the words “Feminist” or “Vagina” are being worn around with great pride. Heck there are conferences for women to discuss raging topics like equal pay, sexual harassment policies at work place and how they deserve a more prominent presence in the higher chambers of power which are primarily occupied by men.
Before I get into this let’s try to understand what exactly is feminism. Well accordingly to my humble IQ of 72 (according to a Facebook quiz) feminism is is an ideology that unifies several groups under the cause/goal of helping women and women’s rights. It began from a social movement that focused on women’s rights. Due to the size and large variety of people who champion under the flag of feminism, there are several different “branches” of feminism . Each with their own ideas and beliefs on what causes women’s inequality, the best way to achieve equality, and what equality should look like.
You have some feminists who believe that inequality between the sexes is brought on by a patriarchal society. Some of these feminists believe it is a deliberate effort of men in positions of power to keep women from reaching positions of power. Men have no disadvantages or they are so minor so it isn’t worth addressing.
You have some feminists who believe that inequality is brought on by gender roles, roles that were naturally formed in an effort to strengthen and grow as a society. That “patriarchy” is a result of this and not simply a “boys club” that was deliberately formed. They have a focus on women’s rights in an effort of levelling out gender equality.
You have some feminists who are Pro-Choice. You have other feminists who are Pro-Life. You have some feminists who are sex positive and love seeing the sexual liberation and freedom women are gaining in regards to their bodies and sex. You have other feminists who view porn as “legal prostitution” and believe that no woman would ever choose sex work.
In this edition I’ll try understanding the issue of wage gap which is growing in noise over the last few years and hopefully address more issues of feminists in the coming weeks. I did spend considerable amount of time reading articles both supporting and those rubbishing wage gap as a myth. So when an Obama comes out and expresses his disgust at wage gap difference in the society you really stand up and take notice. I hope to draw some light over the issue with some data points I gathered.
Lets take a look :
The most common graph used by the feminist will tell you that women earn 77 cent for every dollar that a man earns. Now let’s take a break down to what exactly this difference is coming from.
- The $ 0.23 gender pay gap is simply the difference between the average earnings of men and women working full time. So there is a difference right ?
Well here is the thing that most feminist fail to bring to attention, this study did not undertake differences in occupation, position, tenure or hours worked per week by the genders. It is just the average difference period.
So how does one still explain the difference. Well read on!
This study is skewed, it does not factor in the fact that women tend to take more leaves than the male counterpart. One study shows that women work on an average 53 Mins for every hour and are more likely to take leave when compared to their male counterparts. So yes the study was always going to bring up the disparity!!
- Women tend to prefer flexible timings and tend to lean towards more part time roles compared to men. Now before you come at me by saying isn’t society structured to prefer women to stay home and care for family. A behavioural study which was spread across years showed women in general leaned towards choosing flexible work hours and give more importance to their personal well being than their male counterparts.
- To examine this further, let’s take a look into the medical field in the US. It was noticed that women made a conscious decision to choose low level/ entry level specialities like paediatrics or family medicine than dig deep into more complex streams like Cardiology, neurology etc. This simply goes back to the point of preference.
- Claudia Goldin is a Harvard economics professor who has done some of the the most influential research on wage gap difference. She was on the freakonomics pod cast to discuss this and one point that stood out the most was “If anything, men tend to work somewhat harder. And I know that there are many who have done many experiments on the fact that women don’t necessarily like competition as much as men do — they value temporal flexibility, men value income growth — that there are various differences.”
- Here is an example which Goldin mentions in the podcast : “ Consider a couple graduating together from a prestigious law school, and taking highly paid jobs at firms that demand long hours. The evidence suggests they’re likely to begin at similar salaries. But a few years later, Goldin says, one of them — more likely the woman — may decide to leave for a smaller practice with fewer hours and more flexibility in scheduling. In that new job, research suggests, she’s likely to earn less per hour than her partner. Goldin calls this phenomenon non-linearity, or a part-time penalty: the part-timer works half the time her partner does, but earns less than half his salary.”
What we need to acknowledge is the fact that both sexes on a macro level desire different things. While men tend to put in those despiteful late hours and take on more riskier jobs compared to women who in return tend to choose jobs which are flexible and more lenient on leaves. This may kind of help understanding the wage gap difference between the two sexes and how it boils down to preference. May be it’s not down to just gender bias.
Sports amongst other industries are also battling with wage gap differences and I would like to bring that into the picture. Simple economics here : More viewership results in more ad revenue, and this very amount is what trickles down to athletes. So if you have time do check out the viewership count of any sports for men vs women you will notice a startling difference. Not saying women athletes aren’t putting in their time, sweat and effort, there is no contesting that. It’s just that female athletes cannot compete to the same level as men and the quality of the game matters a lot in sports. We have a long way to go with regards to quality of women in sports but until then it’s not fair to level the field in sports for now.
In fact there are huge disparities in mens pay scale too ! You have a footballer earning $1000 a week and someone earning $500,000 per week. It all boils down to capability and your ability to draw people in. A pure economic decision. Nothing more. Nothing less.
In the year 199, Karsten Braasch faced against the Williams sisters dubbed a “Battle of the Sexes” took place during the 1998 Australian Open. Venus and Serena Williams had claimed that they could beat any male player ranked below 200. So Braasch, then ranked 203rd, challenged them both. Braasch first took on Serena and beat her 6–1. He then played Venus and won 6–2. Braasch said afterwards, “500 and above, no chance.” He added that he had played like someone ranked 600th in order to keep the game “fun”.
The point I am trying to draw after literally spending hours on this topic is this, women value temporal flexibility, men value income growth. Just something for you to ponder over, if there was actually a conscious wage gap difference wouldn’t companies hire more women than men simply because it makes more economical sense ?
I did manage to make it sound trivial by boiling it down to he, she and preference. I know it’s not that simple. Its lot more complicated. But from a macro level, these are my humble observations. While we progress towards a more egalitarian form of society we need to understand its all down to economics and what makes more sense and maybe not conscious gender bias. There are industries where women will continue to have an upper hand and some where men will have an upper hand. So the question is, how bad do you really want to be in those god damn chambers !