Modern feminism distorts truth on gender wage gap

Apart from a few radicals, most Americans believe in equality. The great disagreement comes when people try to determine what equality actually is. On one side are those concerned with establishing the optimal environment for the equality of opportunity, while the other side wants to guarantee the equality of results. Feminism began as a necessary movement to allow women many of the choices formerly only available to men. Unfortunately, modern feminism has transformed into nothing more than a racket of victims looking to gain special privileges.

From lower physical requirements for female firefighters, soldiers, and police officers, to quotas in sports with the enactment of Title XI, modern feminist causes have been about special treatment over equal treatment. Perhaps the clearest example of this is the way in which feminists have tackled the issue of the so-called gender income gap.

The National Organization for Women (NOW) for example loves to tout the fact that women’s median annual salary is only “78 cents for every $1.00” earned by men. But like most of these statistics, they are used to paint a story that just isn’t so. Several feminist groups claim that this wage gap is evidence of systematic discrimination against women in the workplace and are using it to pass legislation such as the Paycheck Fairness Act. Regrettably, the conclusion of the feminists has no basis in reality.

The first problem with their line of reasoning is that one cannot assume discrimination based on unequal results. For example, 75 percent of public educators in the United States are female according to the National Education Association. To conclude that this gender gap in employment is due to discrimination toward males in the public school system is not even taken seriously, nor should it be, but this same logic somehow applies to the wage gap.

The most reasonable explanation for the lack of male public educators is that men simply choose not to become teachers at the same rate as women. This issue of choice also happens to be at the heart of the gender income gap. The inconvenient truth of the matter is that women lag behind men in wages because of the choices they make. Women tend to go into different areas of study, choose different sorts of jobs (often with less risks involved), and manage their home lives with different considerations than men.

The Labor Department issued a study in 2009 which concluded that difference in income between the genders “are the result of a multitude of factors and that the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action. Indeed, there may be nothing to correct. The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.”

This study only reinforced what has been known by most economists for a relatively long time. In a recent interview, economist Thomas Sowell noted that in 1969, unmarried women earned a higher income than men who were never married, they also became tenured professors at a higher rate than men who were never married. The variable to look for is marriage and child rearing, two choices that make a very big difference in determining the lifetime income of women.

It’s true that feminist groups use this dishonest wage gap statistic to push their agenda, but they often forget other very important facts as it relates to gender in the workplace. One statistic you never hear NOW using to petition Congress for in order to promote equity is the gender difference in workplace related deaths. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2008 men accounted for 93 percent of all workplace fatalities, even though women were responsible for 43 percent of all hours worked. Of course this statistic goes back to the point that men typically are willing to take on riskier jobs than women. Riskier jobs often mean higher pay.

Another angle not often considered by those who fret over the wage gap is that it makes little sense to an employer. If women truly did equal work for less pay, why would an employer ever hire a man except as a last resort? Businesses have one primary objective, and that is to turn a profit. If an employer could hire a woman and pay her a significantly lower rate than what it would have to pay a man, with equal results, what business wouldn’t take advantage of a deal like that?

Facts are stubborn things. Men choose fields that tend to earn more income and are more likely to work longer hours. Women are more likely to be selective when choosing work, taking flexibility and environment into account, as well as time for children and family. So before anyone participates in the upcoming feminist rallies in April to show their solidarity, consider how baseless the wage-gap grievance really is. Sadly enough, the wage gap fallacy is only the tip of the iceberg in the emotionally charged movement that is modern day feminism.

Written by Daniel McDonald


  • The author’s point about facts being stubborn is a good one, and yet his facts are so poorly researched and misinterpreted that his own statement discredits the entire argument.

    Time and time again anti-feminist activists make the claim that the gender wage gap is due to choices and preferences by women, but this claim has TIME AND TIME AGAIN been debunked by rigorous, objective research. In 2010, the United States Congressional Joint Economic Committee (JEC) came out with a 10-year analysis of the gender wage gap, in which they considered salaries, wages, and bonuses of men and women managers who WORKED THE SAME HOURS, HELD THE SAME STATUS or POSITION, and HAD THE SAME PROFESSIONAL and EDUCATION QUALIFICATIONS. Comparing apples to apples, the Congressional JEC found that after controlling for all of these factors, women managers with the same position as their male colleagues on average still earned roughly 77 cents on every dollar earned by the men.

    Furthermore, the study found that when surveyed, women workers value the SAME things as men in the workplace: a. holding a leadership position, b. being challenged and stimulated by their work, and c. receiving recognition for their efforts. BOTH MEN AND WOMEN placed family and child-rearing responsibilities below leadership and career advancement on their list of values, which would indicate that the women had no preference or choices that would affect the gender wage gap.

    As far as equality in education, the author’s claim that gender equity has been reached is ludicrous. The statistic that 75% of educators being women may be true, but the fact is they are high school and elementary school teachers as well as associate and non-tenured faculty. When it comes to the upper echelons of academia, women are still severely underrepresented, especially in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

    So the motivation for this article remains a mystery to those of us work every day to improve the status of women in the workplace, by fighting for equal pay and family responsive policies that would level the playing field for women…but I can assure you we are not “pushing an agenda”.

    If there were true equality for women in this country, we would move on to focus on international acceptance of solid American policies to improve equality for women all over the world. Unfortunately, we are not there yet.

  • Andrew Konishi on

    “When it comes to the upper echelons of academia, women are still severely underrepresented, especially in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.”

    That’s because of CHOICE. Women CHOOSE to not go into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

  • I work at the Association for Women in Science, and represent the 7.4 million American woman who CHOOSE to go into STEM fields. It turns out, women want to enter these fields…and do. But when they are turned down for promotions, paid less than their male counterparts, and refused tenure…they drop out because they do not see a future for themselves in these male-dominated careers.

    The issue is not that women choose not to go into STEM fields. It is that we are losing talented scientists (50% of the talent in STEM, mind you…) because those fields are mainly controlled by men…department chairs, deans, and selection committees…and do not have policies in place that are responsive or equal to women.

    As an undergraduate male, it is surprising that you seem so adamant about a claim that you are hardly qualified to make…but if it is based on some sort of research or data of which I am unaware please share.

  • @AWIS:
    Looking around UAA, the only science majority of women choose is biology and nursing (not counting social sciences). I can see how Andrew says they CHOOSE fields other than STEM.
    But that’s a very small sample size (one university), other colleges might have varying statistics.

  • Interesting article, Daniel.

    I am admittedly ambivalent about the gender wage gap. I’ve read convincing arguments from both those (like AWIS) who claim that when all variables are accounted for, women still earn less than their male counterparts, as well from those (like Daniel) who claim that the gender wage gap tells an incomplete story.

    Most of the anecdotal evidence I encounter seems to support the position taken by AWIS, but I don’t believe that anecdotes are sufficient to substantiate such an enormous claim about the gender gap in general.

    In the event of conflicting causal stories, I tend to investigate issues myself. I went to the JEC webpage and downloaded their most recent report on the gender wage gap in management positions. The report is called “Women in Management: Analysis of Female Managers’ Representation, Characteristics, and Pay,” and it is dated September 28, 2010. Here is a link to access the report that I read:

    First, the report acknowledges the very real gender wage gap:

    “The estimated difference in pay between female managers working full time and male managers working full time narrowed slightly between 2000 and 2007 after adjusting for selected factors that were available and are commonly used in examining salary levels, such as age, hours worked beyond full time, and education. When looking at all industry sectors together and adjusting for these factors, we estimated that female managers earned 81 cents for every dollar earned by male managers in 2007, compared to 79 cents in 2000. The estimated adjusted pay difference varied by industry sector, with female managers’ earnings ranging from 78 cents to 87 cents for every dollar earned by male managers in 2007, depending on the industry sector.”

    That being said, there are some other interesting claims in the report:

    “According to our estimates, female managers in 2007 had less education, were younger on average, were more likely to work part-time, and were less likely to be married or have children, than male managers.”

    There are a couple of things to be taken from this statement. First, while this sentence acknowledges that while women in management positions tend to be younger (by about three years, according to the report), and less educated (51% of females in management positions hold a college degree, as opposed to 56% of males), this doesn’t seem to limit women’s access to management positions. In fact, it appears as though less educated, younger men would have a much more difficult time being promoted than women in the same position. In addition, often people without college degrees are simply paid less, regardless of their sex

    Second, even if variables are controlled for statistical purposes, there are consequences that cannot be easily quantified by statisticians. Imagine yourself as a senior executive, armed with the knowledge that females tend to take more time off, work less hours, and spend less time with one job, how will this affect how you appropriate wages?

    A female friend of mine, who studies economics at Cambridge University, explained to me that when hiring people for management positions, senior executives (both male and female) take into account this POTENTIAL loss of productivity, ESPECIALLY if they’re hiring salaried workers. If an individual is more likely to take time off in the future, then often their initial pay will be slightly lower than a potential worker who isn’t as likely to take time off.

    My question then to AWIS is this – has your office looked into this? Here’s a thought experiment – imagine you are part of a double-blind study, and you’re asked to hire future managers for a company you own. You have two groups to pull from. You don’t know their sex, education, age, or any other information that would allow you to identify personal characteristics. The only thing you know is that group A is more likely to take time off, whereas group B is not. Would you pay both groups equally? What if you’re forced to provide a salary? Is it worth paying both groups $100,000 a year knowing that one group is more likely to begin working part time? Why or why not?

    The point here is that EVEN IF the individuals from group A don’t end up taking time off, you can’t know this in advance. All you know is that they’re more LIKELY to take time off. As such, when you hire people from group A, you would be justified in paying them less, at least initially.

    I would be curious to see what wages and salaries look like after 10 or 15 years of employment, during which both men and women worked equal hours. Perhaps even then women still make less. The report wasn’t conclusive in this regard, so I can’t speak to it. If this is indeed the case, then the glass ceiling may indeed still be a huge problem. I am looking into reports that address this question. If anyone has any resources, I would be happy to look at them,

    A few other quotes from the article that are worth publishing:

    “While both male and female managers experienced increases in attainment of bachelor’s degrees or higher, women’s gains surpassed men’s. According to our estimates, male managers with a bachelor’s degree or higher increased from 53 percent in 2000 to 56 percent in 2007, while female managers with a bachelor’s degree or higher increased 6 percentage points from 45 percent in 2000 to 51 percent in 2007. Similarly, while the share of male managers with a master’s degree or higher went up less than 1 percentage point from 2000 to 2007, the share of female managers with a master’s degree or higher rose nearly 4 percentage points.”

    A recent article from The Economist (January 2010) backs up this claim. According to that article, women now outnumber men in college enrollment, PhDs received (in the aggregate – all fields combined), and jobs. Because blue collar workers tend to be men rather than women, and the high unemployment rate in this country tends to disproportionately affect blue collar workers, men were losing their jobs at a much faster rate than women during the Great Recession.

    The point here is that women are cruising into the work force full sail, and are faring better than ever before.

    Another quote from the report, found at the bottom of nearly half of the sectors analyzed for the report.

    “The adjusted pay difference fluctuated between 2000 and 2007. In 2000, the adjusted pay difference between female and male managers was not statistically significant.”

    Yet another, and perhaps the most important:

    “This report did not attempt to provide an extensive explanation for the difference in earnings between male and female managers, such as by comparing the relative importance of any of the variables in explaining the differences. In addition, our analysis was not designed to determine the presence or absence of discrimination. As shown in table 2 above, models with different variables can result in differences in the estimates.”

    The JEC report itself acknowledges that statistics are funny numbers, and can be easily manipulated to tell whatever story you wish. Depending on the calculations performed, profoundly different conclusions can be drawn from the same data set.

    In conclusion, I would say three things. First, equality is extremely important. Men and women should be paid the same for doing the same task. Second, if women are in fact more likely to work less hours, take more time off, and enter management positions with less education, then it’s justified for employers to establish lower starting wages. This isn’t discrimination against women, it’s a smart business model. Third, regardless of where we stand now in this debate, I think it’s fair to say that because women outnumber men in employment numbers, college enrollment, and PhD’s given out, we have come a long way in empowering women. While there are still problems to address, we must acknowledge the effort being made, the true progress we’ve seen over the last two decades.

  • In this article, Mr. McDonald argues that there is a wage gap between men and women because women choose to enter fields that pay less money. He uses public educators as an example. And he’s definitely right on that account – more women than men choose to become public educators. But the fundamental question he fails to ask is: “Why is it anyway that public educators are paid less money than say – construction workers?” I use construction workers as an example because that’s a field that is predominantly dominated by men. It’s not fundamental to the existence of human beings that educators be paid less than construction workers, but somewhere along the line it just became so. That’s the way it is; and we accept it.

    To be a public educator in the state of Alaska you are required to have a bachelor’s degree. You cannot even be considered for employment without one. This is not a requirement to enter the construction field. And yet even entry level construction workers are paid more money than many educators. Now I’m not going to argue that construction workers are not highly skilled people. I, for one, would not want someone like me putting up any drywall in a building where I’m going to be working or living. What I am arguing, however, is that educators, the people that are raising the next generation of adults, are equally as skilled as construction workers. And yet they are still paid less money. That’s the way it is; and we accept it.

    I would like to suggest that we look at the history of wages in America. In recent history (1800s – present), educators have been predominantly women and construction workers have been predominantly men. I would argue that educators have been historically paid less than construction workers because the work done by women has historically been valued less than the work done by men. And thus, because work done by women was valued less than work done by men, it was paid less. And thus it continues to be so today.

    I believe that Mr. McDonald would say that if you want to be an educator, you just need to accept that you’re going to make less money than if you want to be a construction worker. I think it’s time that we stop just accepting history as it is and rather start thinking about why it became so. And when we see something that no longer fits with the values we have today, then we should work to change it.

    The work done by women should be valued equally to the work done by men. And the work done by women should be paid equally to the work done by men. We should no longer accept otherwise.

  • “Why is it anyway that public educators are paid less money than say – construction workers?”

    Who would you pay more? Someone who juggles sponges, or someone who juggles scissors?

    Look at the rate of workplace death and injury in Construction as opposed to Teaching, and you will find your answer. And one can hardly call the 1800s “recently”. By that same logic, one could say that Australia was only “recently” discovered.

  • Humble Veteran on

    Firstly let me say I strongly believe in equality, at least equality of opportunity. I think everyone can agree that equal treatment is valued by all, especially if they are going to be the recipient of the treatment in question. That being said there are at least two points that I have not heard raised that fundamentally disturb me about the current movement of Feminism(and not just Feminism, lest they feel singled out).
    The first is that their stance is artlessly self serving to the detriment of their own integrity. If they wish equal treatment then they should receive it. I think they should receive equal hourly and position salaries. Also, Ladies, please feel free to sign up for the Selective Service draft and be prepared to defend to the death your country and ideals. Don’t be afraid. Don’t stop halfway. If you want equal, good or bad then go all the way. Why are you allowed to vote in an election for a leader that can get me killed for your sake by starting yet another needless war? Doesn’t that seem just as unfair as a woman receiving lower wages? That attitude is akin to the way I felt as a teenager when I resented my parents for not allowing me to drink. I wanted the privilege of a beer after a hard day’s work, but I sure didn’t want to pay the mortgage like my parents were supposed to do.
    Before anyone gets upset and accuses me of being against Women’s suffrage, let me say: I think it is appalling that it took us so long as a nation to correct that particular flaw. My point is that if you are seeking preferential treatment then admit it and call yourselves lobbyists and not activists, please. Why are there so many women concerned with money but no activists concerned with Women’s Right to be Drafted? I feel I have the right to comment on this little oversight of society because I did volunteer to go and fight our collective battles overseas and suffer for it daily.
    Second is the matter of where does it stop? If women want equal wages that is fine, but is the government supposed to subsidize this? Where does the money come from? Where does the process of adjustment stop? If the wages eend up being exactly a perfect 100% match then I would assume both sides would be satisfied, but things rarely work out in this neat way. If men were to suddenly make less than women because of the adjustments made on Women’s’ behal then would it be fair to subsidize the wages of all men to compensate them for this new unfairness? My point is that tampering with equilibrium situations no mater how delicately is likely to have unforeseen consequences and that if women are granted these adjustments, when the wheel turns and it is men who are oppressed will you ladies please stand up for our rights? If you will then I personally will continue to champion your equality. Please also consider starting the Female side of the draft. For the good of the nation and the betterment of peace globally. Thank you.

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