The Other Side of Gender Inequality

Niges Getahun, Staff Writer

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Is forced equality of outcome the way to counter the gender differences in America? Should we try to ensure a fairly-represented gender ratio in all fields? Is the gender wage gap a measure of inequality in the country? Are these issues formed by an oppressive societal structure?

The gender inequality discussion is one of the most misleading narratives of this age. I’m not saying there isn’t a gender pay gap or underrepresentation of women in certain fields of our workforce. However, people have held a skewed view of gender inequality because they have been ignoring the underlying factors that have led to this pay gap and underrepresentation existing in our society.

One of the most common statistics mentioned with gender inequality is the pay gap, which currently stands at 77 cents on the dollar. This is an important statistic, in part, because it reveals some crucial information on gender inequality that is being misunderstood. This number is obtained by totaling the median income of all men and all women, and calculating the difference, while dismissing the multivariate reasons and relevant factors that contribute to the existence of the gender wage gap. This has led many people to use misleading talking points, and oversimplifying the issue.

Let’s take a look at one of the underlying factors that has created this wage gap and underrepresentation of women in male dominated fields. This is individualistic career choices between both genders. According to the Department of Education, men dominate in choosing to major in top paying fields such as electrical engineering, aerospace engineering, civil engineering, and computer science, while women dominate in majoring in lower-paying fields such as psychology, social work, and early childhood education. Many attribute these choices to societal gender stereotyping and lack of support for women in these fields, but this theory has been proven false in further instances.

One example of this is in Scandinavia, where countries have implemented incentives to inspire equality such as quotas and high encouragement to get into STEM, but imbalances in career choices still exist. In Sweden, for example, the gender line is more polarized than in the U. S. as Sweden has an engineering workforce that is about 20:1 male dominated and nursing is 20:1 female dominated.

Many critics of gender inequality are obsessed with the lack of women in STEM fields, because STEM fields have great power and social advantage. It’s not because they want to have fair representation across the workforce, as they are not interested in a multitude of other fields that are dominated by one gender the way they are with STEM. If the idea is that gender inequality stems from women not being fairly represented in fields, should we have some kind of quota and support ensuring women are fairly represented in fields such as mining, garbage collecting, bricklaying, and concrete manufacturing, which are fields that are almost entirely dominated by men?

Another factor that leads to the gender wage gap in America is the lifestyle choices both genders make during their careers. A 2017 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that men are more likely than women to do dangerous jobs, work overtime, negotiate for higher salaries, and move to undesirable places for work. These are actions that merit higher pay. According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and the U.S. Department of Labor, when these factors are taken into consideration, the wage gap shrinks from 23 cents to between 4.8 to 7 cents on the dollar.

Rather than immediately blaming gender discrimination for the under representation and wage gap that exists, we should acknowledge that differences between genders would manifest in their personal choices. If a woman picks a lower paying job because she gets more time off, and a man picks a higher paying job that uses up more of his time, who are we to stand up and tell them they’ve chosen wrongly?

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