It’s not FAIR: The Gender Pay Gap

Why are women in every country in the world paid less than men?

Among the OECD countries New Zealand pays 95 cents on the dollar, the United States is 82 cents, Japan is 74 cents and at the bottom, Korea pays a mere 64 cents on the dollar.

From this perspective, it’s easy to say that the gender pay gap isn’t fair for women, and that’s true but it misses the larger picture. Not only is it not fair for women, it’s also not fair for men.

Men carry the burden and stress of being the bread winning, always needing to get that next promotion, put in those extra hours for a good bonus, skipping the kid’s school play to staying late to impress the boss. The reality that men make more than women has decreased the opportunities men have to make career changes and take new risks because they know their families are counting on them.

What are the consequences of this situation? For women it’s a lower sense of self-worth, often leading to a departure from the workforce or frustration with the situation. For men, it has caused anxiety and social pressure leading to higher suicide rates by 4 to 5 times that of women. In some parts of the world, including Japan, men actually have worked themselves to death.

Once we see the full picture of why it’s not fair we can look at what the underlying factors are to the situation. In this case, it’s not that women are bad workers or less educated, the true cause of the situation is that the work women do, isn’t valued the same as work men do. So it’s not just that women don’t negotiate well or they take time off to have babies, but the actual value society places on the work women do is not as high as men.

This can be seen in simple ways like janitors (usually male) make 22% more than house cleaners (usually females). It’s also been seen that as women enter a predominantly male dominated field like designers or biologists the wages fall 20-40%.

You might be thinking this is a coincidence, maybe demand changed for those jobs or some other factor, however, we see the opposite happen as well. When men enter, predominantly female oriented industries the salaries increase. The most recent example of this is with computer programmers, this job was once considered menial work and was primarily held by women. As men started outnumbering women the salaries increased and the positions gained more prestige.

It’s not just salary that reflects the value placed on women’s work, the way we measure productivity is also a factor. GDP does not measure work done at home, it doesn’t count child care, cooking. and cleaning as productivity. These activities are primarily done by women and yet don’t carry any economic value.

Erasing the gender pay gap and finding fair will only happen when men and women are equally valued for their contributions to society. What will you do to equal the playing field?

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