The advocates aside, ordinary women can hardly be blamed for believing they are paid less than the men doing the same work at their company. Every day of the year intelligent, sophisticated people tell them what the National Women’s Law Center tells them in the very first sentence of its position statement on equal pay (if such important, influential groups as this believe women are unfairly paid less, it must be true; why would they lie?): “American women who work full-time, year-round are paid only 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts.”
When men and women choose their jobs, they tend to be influenced by “what the market will bear.” (Perhaps to better understand this, think of when, say, we want to find the right price for a car we plan to sell: we may look through the local newspapers to get an idea of the prices being asked by others with the same car in roughly the same condition. We can’t ask a lot more than the average, because prospective buyers won’t “bear” it. Thus, our price is set by “what the market will bear.”)
The vast majority of women are (still) either financially supported by a man or anticipate being supported by a man who they consider the primary provider. So most women, influenced by the support of a husband (often unconsciously*), or influenced by the anticipated support of a husband, are able to bear lower pay than men, who as the putative primary provider are expected to do most or all of the spouse supporting. Many women, married women in particular, might be comparable to teens who live with, and are supported by, their parents and who are able to accept a job that pays little, while their parents must earn enough to support both the teens and themselves. Women as a supported group thus have been able to bear the low-paying jobs that men as supporters generally have been unable to bear. Women often can regard their husband as an “employer” who pays them to work at home tending the hearth and raising the children while he raises the income. So they often need not necessarily seek a higher-paying real employer.
An example of why even the most educated, sophisticated women average less even in the same profession: “In 2011, 22% of male physicians and 44% of female physicians worked less than full time, up from 7% of men and 29% of women from Cejka’s 2005 survey.” –amednews.com, March 26, 2012
Men, after society’s 40 years of pursuing a “gender equality” that has been mostly the righting of wrongs for only one sex, are by and large still expected to be, as stated, at least the primary provider who will take up the slack when the wife leaves the workforce, usually at a time of her own choosing. They are expected to be ever ready to handle most or all the family’s expenses.
“Primary” providers thus typically experience the same old lifestyle restrictions that sole providers have always experienced. (This indicates that little has changed for men, except that perhaps the pressure on them to earn even more money has increased, as women increase their own earnings and then, because of hypergamy, often increase their expectations of men.)
“By the late 1990s, the proportion of women who were ‘marrying up’ had almost doubled to 38 percent. Similar patterns are seen across much of Europe, the US and Australia. Hakim said many women did not want to admit that they were looking for a higher earning partner. They even keep the fact secret from the men they are dating, Catherine Hakim said.” -Eleanor Harding | 4th January 2011 | DailyMail.co.uk
So if a man expects to marry and become a sole or primary provider, he naturally feels unable to bear the pay of a secretary or a clerk-typist. (From the single man’s view, not even high-earning women want to marry a male secretary or clerk-typist.) The pay from such jobs seldom is enough to provide for a spouse and family. To the extent the child-caring role has led to women being barred from high-paying jobs, the male’s primary or sole provider role continues to bar men from – in effect prices them out of – lower-paying jobs, jobs which might interest them more or offer the flexibility usually unavailable in the better-paying jobs, the flexibility men often need to become more involved with their children.
A natural outcome of the job choices made by the sexes is women’s 77 cents (currently) to men’s dollar. This figure is arrived at by comparing the sexes’ median incomes: women’s median is 77 percent of men’s. In 2009, the median income of full-time, year-round workers was $47,127 for men, compared to $36,278 for women or 77 percent of men’s median.
What are we to make of this wage gap: “In his book ‘Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People are More Successful,’ economist Daniel Hamermesh contends that good-looking men earn approximately 17% more money than not so good-looking men….” Should less attractive men sue to get pay equal to that of attractive men? -CNN’s The Chart Blog, July 12, 2012
Median income is defined thusly: 50% of workers earn above the figure and 50% below. Think about what this really means when you hear that women’s 77 cents to men’s dollar proves women earn less than men for the same work: A lot of female workers in the higher ranges of women’s median income earn more — often much more — than a lot of male workers in the lower ranges of men’s median. Which is why the October 2012 Atlantic Monthly can report: “In nearly 40 percent of American marriages, the wife earns more than the husband” — quite at odds with “women earn 77 cents to men’s dollar.”
Moreover, “women’s 77 cents to men’s dollar” doesn’t account for the number of hours worked each week, experience, seniority, training, education or even the job description itself. It compares all women to all men, not people in the same job with the same experience. So the salary of a 60-year-old male computer engineer with 30 years at his company is weighed against that of a young first-year female teacher. Also, men are much more likely than women to work two jobs; hence, more often than women, a man earning $40,000 a year from his two jobs ($20,000 each) is weighed against a woman earning $25,000 from her one job, so that he appears to be unfairly earning nearly twice as much as she.
“Because people are prone to believe what we’re told, especially when it comes from a person of authority, an incorrect belief can spread like a virus between people. This willingness to believe makes us susceptible to being fooled.” -“Your Bleeped Up Brain,” -History 2 channel, August 17, 2013
“The more often you hear an assertion made, the more likely you are to believe it, regardless of its objective truth.” -“Your Bleeped Up Brain,” History 2 channel, August 3, 2013, “Memory”
This is how slogans like women’s 77 cents for the same work get legs.**
No doubt many pay equity advocates believe that “greedy, profit-obsessed” employers would hire only illegal immigrants for their cheaper labor if they could get away with it. Or move their business to another country to save money. Or replace older workers with younger ones for the same reason.
So these pay equity advocates, especially those who insist that even women in the higher income ranges are paid 77 cents to men’s dollar in the same work, need to answer this question:
Why wouldn’t employers hire only women if, as the advocates say, employers get away with paying females less than males for the same work?
This might be my shortest explanation of the gender wage gap:
Picture a couple on the ballroom dance floor. She’s going round and round because he’s going round and round, and he’s going round and round because she’s going round and round. Such a symbiotic relationship is also played out in the gender wage gap: Husbands earn more because wives earn less, and wives earn less because husbands earn more.
*I say “unconsciously” because I often hear wives make such statements as “I quit work because I wanted to spend more time with the children.” (Never mind that the husband might want to do the same.) In the 1970s, my first wife, over a year before she decided to have a child, quit her job suddenly (without telling me beforehand) because she “was bored.” In both cases, the real reason was unconscious: they left their employed work because they had a husband who supported them, who then in effect became their “non-boss employer” who paid them to stay at home. If they had been single, they would not have quit working.
**The slogan “women’s 77 cents to men’s dollar” caught on because of an “availability cascade.” An availability cascade is a self-reinforcing cycle that explains the development of certain kinds of collective beliefs. A novel idea or insight, usually one that seems to explain a complex process in a simple or straightforward manner, gains rapid currency in the popular discourse by its very simplicity and by its apparent insightfulness. Its rising popularity triggers a chain reaction within the social network: individuals adopt the new insight because other people within the network have adopted it, and on its face it seems plausible. The reason for this increased use and popularity of the new idea involves both the availability of the previously obscure term or idea, and the need of individuals using the term or idea to appear to be current with the stated beliefs and ideas of others, regardless of whether they in fact fully believe in the idea that they are expressing. Their need for social acceptance, and the apparent sophistication of the new insight, overwhelm their critical thinking. [Emphasis by Male Matters.]