Equal Pay Day was on April 4th this year, so I thought I’d write something relevant.
Around this time of year, I see a ton of articles that argue the wage gap is a myth; it isn’t real.
I’ve always been questioning the validity of these arguments, listening to them (not just hearing them) and trying to understand if perhaps it’s true that the wage gap isn’t really a valid concern.
The main argument against the wage gap is that women make less because of their choices.
I’m seeing this everywhere: women don’t ask for raises, women go on family leaves, they choose lower-paying jobs, they don’t work as many hours.
Time to break this down.
Myth #1: Women go on family leave, that explains it all. They work fewer hours.
It doesn’t. There is a lot more to it than this. Why are women of colour paid even less than white women? Race, and class among other things influence the wage gap as well. Saying that family leaves explains it all is a MAJOR oversimplification.
Perhaps parental choices do influence the wage gap, but that does not erase the issue and make the problem disappear. Besides, if family leaves were the only reason it existed, let’s think about WHY more women than men are taking family leave.
Men feel pressure about whether they will disappoint their bosses and coworkers, in addition to worrying about losing their jobs if they stay away from work too long. Gender roles enforce that men should be at work and women should be the ones to stay at home. That leaves women to take on more of the work at home.
Sure, more women are taking family leave than men, but that doesn’t mean the wage gap isn’t real. And don’t forget that women are working WAY more unpaid hours than men at home. They’re working 3-6 hours a day on domestic and caregiving tasks, while men spending between half an hour to 2 hours. This influences the type of job they need, as they need more flexibility. In the end, women are working more than men and are still being paid less.
Basically, all this means that patriarchal values result in women being paid less and earning less… because they are working less at paid jobs and spending more time working for free at home.
Myth 2: Women don’t ask for raises.
This is straight up incorrect. Women ARE asking for raises when they are explicitly told that their salary is negotiable — in fact, they are negotiating more than men are! The thing is, when they do get raises, they are STILL getting less than men.
Women don’t ask as often if they aren’t told that it is negotiable, but considering that even when they do ask they are getting a much smaller raise than men… I find it hard to believe that it means the wage gap doesn’t exist. The fact of the matter is that women are still paid less than men, even if they do ask for raises.
Myth #3: Women choose lower-paying jobs.
Maybe, but according to the Economic Policy Institute they’re actually being paid less no matter what occupation they have and no matter what education level they have! And surprise, surprise: this is worse for any woman who isn’t white.
In Canada, this is also true. According to a report published in 2016 from Oxfam Canada and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, “wage gaps occur across all sectors and all education levels. Women working full time and full year in Canada earn 72% of what men earn on average.”
So basically this has no influence whatsoever on whether the wage gap exists.
Myth #4: It’s not an issue anymore; it’s getting better.
Overall yes, but in Canada, it’s actually gotten worse according to the same Oxfam report. (It’s the most recent data I could find.)
In the States, it hasn’t gotten better in the last 20 years.
(And honestly, the wage cap on anyone who isn’t white is pretty ridiculous.)
Basically… we’ve made progress but we aren’t there yet.
So we’re not going to stop talking now.