The Wage Gap Discussion Continues…

This article is written in response to an article titled “A Few Thoughts on Why it is Not Sexist for Women to Earn Less Than Men” in the October 4th issue of this paper. I will highlight not only the author’s inability to link discriminatory societal and policy norms to the inequity that exists in the gender wage gap, but also the flaws in his efficiency theory.

The punch line is that the author’s analysis of gender wage gap inequity is not based on fact, but instead the same rhetoric that perpetuates these discriminatory practices.

For sake of space, this argument is brief. According to a recent study by The Economist, women have 45.7 percent of American’s jobs, more than half of the bachelor’s and master’s degrees awarded, but yet 95 percent of senior managers are male and female managers’ earnings are about 68 percent of male managers’ earnings. Mr. Flannery would argue that this discrepancy is a matter of women choosing to exit the labor force, usually to participate in caring labor that is often associated with childcare, which isn’t discrimination.

First off, where are the facts? Econometric data has revealed that the exit and re-entry of women in the labor force only accounts for a small portion of the wage gap. Secondly, women don’t have more flexible jobs that they have chosen, as Professor Elaine McCrate has found, and in fact, it is men that are working jobs that have the flexible conditions those women as caring laborers need. To be blunt, where are the men and why aren’t they changing diapers?

The facts show that the bulk of the gender wage gap can still be explained by gender discrimination. Access to top jobs in corporations is still based on sexist conditions like informal networks where cronyism guarantees promotion and the blatant stereotype that women have little capacity for leadership.

I would argue that women don’t choose to enter low paying positions that allow them flexibility to exit and enter the workforce, but that firms choose to enact policy based on male dominated conditions that do not allow women to be top executives and caring laborers at the same time. For a country that promotes the market and family values on the same majority ticket, it’s ironic to me that we’re still stuck in our old ways of policies that do not make it possible for the supply of qualified women to be included in top jobs while managing a family.

Mr. Flannery’s inaccurate argument states that the market is efficient; therefore women are to blame for the gender wage gap. If recent research shows a strong correlation between the number of women as top executives and financial performance in Fortune 500 companies, how is it efficient for a firm to hold on to the “up or out” motto or sexist policies based around leaves of absences? If women are both qualified with the human capital to be in these top positions, and it’s profitable for firms to have a diversified workplace that includes women in their top positions, then why aren’t we doing more to get and keep them in these jobs? It’s not about women choosing to not be there, it’s about societal norms that have been left unquestioned. Once we start questioning the very prejudices that don’t allow women to crack the glass ceiling, we’ll start to rethink our policies and practices. Until then, both women and business will lose.