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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Opinion

The gender pay gap doesn’t exist


This past week, people celebrated Equal Pay Day, the supposed day when women finally earned as much as men had in the past year. But there’s a problem with Equal Pay Day: the gender pay gap doesn’t exist.

It is a myth that stems from the flawed talking point that women earn 79 cents for every dollar a man earns. It’s a fantastic lie.

It’s important to understand how the gender pay gap is calculated. The biggest problem with using the gender pay gap as fact is that the statistic does not compare men and women doing identical work. It is calculated by comparing the earnings of full-time working women to the earnings of full-time working men.

So the calculation does not compare the two sexes in a controlled environment with them doing the same job, working the same number of hours and having the same experience. It just reflects the median earnings of all men and women who are classified as full time workers, not taking into account different factors that affect pay, such as overtime.

Women also choose vastly different college degrees and different jobs than men. In an NPR article, Lisa Chow cited statistics that said women are much more likely to study a lower paying major like psychology, English or social work in lieu of a major that pays very well right out of college, like engineering. Of the ten lowest paying majors, only one is dominated primarily by males – theology and religious vocations. Of the top 10 highest paying college majors, eight are more than 70 percent male.

Chow goes on to explain that even women who go into higher paying majors, such as math and biology, are more likely to go into lower paying jobs such as teaching. When calculating the pay gap, you must take into account that men and women work different jobs or the results are skewed.

Men are also more likely to work longer hours. This is where overtime comes into play. Technically speaking, a full-time jobs entails working 35 to 40 hours a week.

“A simple side-by-side comparison of all men and all women includes people who work 35 hours a week, and others who work 45,” said Sarah Ketterer of the Wall Street Journal. “Men are significantly more likely than women to work longer hours, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

And she’s right. According to a 2014 study by the BLS, men work 8.9 hours on an average workday, while women work 8.2 hours on an average workday. So, according to the government, men work more, but that’s not reflected in the final calculation, further flawing the pay gap.

Finally, there’s an argument that women are paid less because, as women enter a field with more regularity, the average pay of that field drops.

“It’s not just that women ‘choose lower paying jobs,’ it’s that whatever women choose will pay less, because society has decided to just value women’s work less,” said Elizabeth Gregory, director of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies.

But there’s a problem: those who perpetuate this idea forget that correlation does not automatically equal causation. According to the New York Times, as more women enter a field that is predominantly male, the average pay drops. But, as more people enter a field, the less the field will pay; it’s just simple supply and demand theory. It’s not that women’s work is valued less; it’s that the more the supply is available, the less the worker is valued, no matter their gender.

So don’t be fooled into feeling guilty about pay discrepancies because women are not paid less than men. It’s a fantastic lie that has been wonderfully crafted and ingrained into the heads of Americans. Though people will shout that I’m a sexist or misogynist, sometimes the tenth man is right.

Opinion columnist Jorden Smith is a political science junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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