One work-related issue seems to have perpetual press coverage. Consider the following:
Men and women must be paid equal wages if they perform substantially the same work under the Equal Pay Act. “Equal pay” refers to more than just your paycheck. Under this law, all employers must provide employees within the same establishment whose jobs require substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility, and are performed under similar working conditions “equal pay.” – U.S. Department of Labor Website
In 1951, women made about 64 cents for every dollar earned by men. The wage gap has narrowed over time, with today’s women (age 15 and over) earning 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, for year-round, full-time work. – Infoplease.com
How can we reconcile the above two statements?
In 2005, to answer that question, author Warren Farrell published Why Men Earn More: The Startling Truth about the Pay Gap – And What Women Can Do About It. Per its subtitle, the book also included constructive ideas on how women can avoid getting less than men. The way they can do that, the author wrote, is for them to make more of the same choices as men. And what are they?
Note that none of these are about acting differently in the workplace, or fighting remaining sex discrimination. Such things would help, but are hardly the whole story. So what did Farrell, backed with documented statistics, come up with?
First, women can choose from the 25 worst positions, as assessed by the Jobs Rated Almanac on quality of work environment, employment prospects, physical demands, job security, and related stress. As of 2002, 92% of workers in these 25 jobs were men. Only one position, dancer, had more than 32% female workers. Some of the better paying ones in this list were carpenter (99% male), boilermaker (100% male), and the overall lowest-ranking one, lumberjack (98% male).
Second, Farrell recommended that women opt for careers with lower personal fulfillment, such as being a tax accountant instead of a child-care professional.
Third, on the lower-qualification end, women are likely to be paid more if they end up with jobs outdoors, such as package deliverers, instead of those only requiring work inside.
Fourth, if women seek positions in which they “can’t psychologically check out at the end of the day,” such as corporate attorney, instead of working as, for example, librarians, their earnings will tend to be higher.
Fifth, being more willing to take the most extreme physical risk, being killed on the job, of which 92% suffering that early last decade were men, can help women’s pay.
Sixth, female workers can help themselves by putting in more hours. According to a 2004 Department of Labor survey, women were less than half as likely than men to work over 50 hours per week.
Seventh, gaining more experience, by not being among the 50 times as many women as men who are full-time homemakers, the 8 times as many who take at least four years out of the labor force, or the 9 times as many who leave work for six months or longer for family reasons can boost expected income.
Eighth, simply getting to work more often, and not contributing to women’s averaging twice as much time away from it as men, can help.
Ninth, being more willing to take nonphysical as well as physical risks, such as joining heavily male fields such as venture capitalism, generally pays more.
Tenth, taking jobs requiring working at inconvenient times, such as being a doctor in private practice instead of working for an HMO, can shrink the income gap.
These ten were only those I chose from one old book – many, many more are out there.
Despite sex discrimination laws in effect for half a century, there are reasons for women still being paid less, overall, than men. There are certainly men in positions of power who would prefer their subordinates to be the same. But that sort of thing is nowhere near the whole story. Choices matter too, and mean enough that no simple assertion of broad-based pay differences should be taken as being caused by other reasons. The issue of average pay differing by sex, as is the case for many, is far more complicated than it looks.