Friday, April 06, 2007

Arguments on the Wage Gap

One statistic that we've all heard is that women earn approximately 77 cents on the dollar compared to what men in comparable jobs earn. In a Washington Post opinions piece earlier this week, Carrie Lukas writes that much of the wage gap is due to the fact that men choose jobs that are harder, involve more travel, are "dirtier" and involve more personal sacrifice. As opposed to women self-selecting into jobs that allow for more time with family or are more "personally fulfilling." This different set of choices as to jobs explains, according to Lukas, almost all of the 23% difference in wages.

Lukas is not reinventing the wheel with this argument, but it bears some discussion as to whether (a) it's actually true that women and men who hold the exact same job get paid, trained, promoted, supported and retained in the same ways, and (b) whether the process of job selection is one based purely on the idea of personal fulfillment, or whether job selection is heavily influenced by disparate treatment (like the factors in (a)), and by stereotypes of what type of work women are interested in. My view is that stereotyping and disparate treatment play a significant role in the wage gap, and that the wage gap serves as another illustration of why Title IX and other equity measures are still necessary to combat stereotypes and offer the same options to men and women to pursue careers that are personally, and professionally, fulfilling.

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