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It is often claimed that discrimination against women plagues the workplace. The claim is built off of the statistic that women are paid $0.78 for every dollar men make (source). While this statistic is true, it is a mistake to cite that as evidence of discrimination. Why? Because that statistic does not take into account any relevant factors. The ratio is calculated by dividing the total pay of women by the number of women, and the total pay of men divided by the number of men, but when relevant factors, such as occupation choice, time spent in the workforce, and other decisions, are taken into account, women are not paid less than men. Before we even look into those reasons, ask yourself this question; if employers could get away with paying women less money for the same amount of work, then why would there be men in the workforce? Hiring only women would give companies a massive advantage over their competition, since they would have lower labor costs.
There are many factors involved in why there is a pay difference between men and women, but it is not due to discrimination. It is due to different decisions that men and women make. One of the largest contributing factors is the occupational choices made by women. Just to cite a few examples, according to the United States Department of Labor, women make up 81.7% of Elementary and middle school teachers, 81.6% of social workers, and 76.2% of event planners, but only 33.8% of physicians, 31.9% of Lawyers, and only 13.6% of architects and engineers (source) [Disclaimer: women do comprise of 95.6% of Speech-language pathologist, but that field comprises of only 0.08% of the workforce, making it statistically negligible]. This means that women dominate much lower-paying careers. Studies have shown, some other significant factors contributing to the pay discrepancy include choices such as leaving the workplace because of children, working fewer hours, being 8-10 times less likely to ask for a raise, and being less willing to travel when a job demands it. A study on the gender gap in the financial and corporate sectors, published in the American Economic Journal, showed that when credentials are equal, women and men are paid exactly the same during the onset of their career, but as their careers progressed, women worked less hours, left the workforce and subsequently a gender-pay-gap arose (source) [the same results were seen in studies on other fields, such as law].
It is often said in response to this, that our culture socializes women to make these choices, but science says otherwise. Studies published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information, have shown that girls show a preference towards more feminine, caretaking roles, long before they develop any self-awareness of gender identity (source). Furthermore, many studies have repeatedly shown that these exact same tendencies are exhibited in non-human primates (source,source). The reason for these differences in preferences, is because male and female brains are structured differently. In 2004, scientists published a study showing that women have about 6.5 times less Grey matter then men, but nearly 10 times more white matter. Women also have a larger limbic system, thus why they are more in touch with their feelings (source). As stated in the study, “The results from this study may help explain why men and women excel at different types of tasks. For example, men tend to do better with tasks requiring more localized processing, such as mathematics, while women are better at integrating and assimilating information from distributed gray-matter regions of the brain, which aids language skills.”
When the aforementioned facts are taken into account, the wage gap disappears. In fact, Time Magazine published a study showing that out of 150 of America’s biggest cities, in 147 of them women under the age of 30, with no children, make 108% of what their male counterparts make (source). Despite the facts on the issue, proponents of the wage-gap argument often argue there is a study that demonstrates a bias exists against women in the science fields. The study consisted of feminist scholar, Corinne Moss-Racusin, sending out resumes to 127 professors among three schools. The resumes were identical, with the exception that some had the name Jennifer and the other had the name John (source). She showed that both among male and female professors, there was a preference to the candidate named John. This study is frequently cited as a demonstration of the bias against women, however absolutely no follow-up studies were done to confirm these findings, in fact, quite the opposite happened. In a much larger, more recent study of over 873 participants across all 50 states, including the District of Colombia, researchers actually found that in science fields women are preferred 2-1 over identically qualified males (source). All follow-up studies found the same results.
All this to say, of course there are sexists in the world. There will always be people who, in their ignorance, will tell women that they don’t belong in industries because of their gender. But that doesn’t mean that society is out to put women down, and it most certainly isn’t empowering to any woman, to promote this idea that society is forcing them into an economic disadvantage.