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Do Women Really Deserve To Be Paid Less Than Men?

Updated: Aug 14, 2023

Have you ever stopped to consider why the jobs that are typically occupied by women--jobs like taking care of children, taking care of sick people, taking care of old people, and cooking for & cleaning up after all of us--are among the lowest paid? Do you find it curious that these are also the everyday activities that women typically (and happily!) do for free for their loved ones?

I do. I think about it often. It's something that sticks in my craw.

What is it about the jobs women do that is undervalued? Is it that the work itself is not valued or is it because it's done by women that makes it unworthy?

OK, maybe I'm being dramatic in my opining. But more than a few articles have come across my desk revealing the persistent disparities between how men experience work and how women experience work.

To wit, Gender isn't the problem during salary negotiation, researchers say. It's actually gender bias that is to blame. To explain the gender pay gap, the conventional wisdom goes like this: it exists because women are no good at negotiating. If only women were better negotiators, they'd earn what men do. Problem solved. What does the research say? "If women appear worse in real-world scenarios, it can be chalked up to recruiters’ implicit biases." According to studies, "the problem is with the men that are interviewing the women, not the women themselves." (Oh, and women can be biased against women, too, as Kristen Pressner admits in a TedTalk.)

Another popular explanation of the gender pay gap (in addition to being told they just need to demand more pay) is that women voluntarily take time away from work (to be mothers, to care for family, etc.). While that may be true, it turns out that the factors leading to wage disparity start much earlier. Research shows women are undermined at the very beginning by being given smaller roles. "Early on in careers, men’s and women’s jobs often take on different characteristics. We found that men, on average, are almost immediately given more people to supervise and lead larger teams, even when they are at the same level of the hierarchy as women ... which results in higher compensation ... But these small, subtle discriminatory acts that happen early in women’s careers have consequences that snowball over time." She earns less at the start because she's given a smaller team to manage. The salary gap grows from there. She never catches up. Read more from The Wall Street Journal.

What can we do about it?

Let us quit blaming the people who suffer as a result of these enduring biases and stereotypes. Instead, let's overcome our enduring biases and stereotypes. Let's interrupt them -- our biases. Let's put them away. For good.

Likewise, in the article Stop Telling Women They Have Imposter Syndrome, the authors explain how doing so "puts the onus on women to deal with the effects" of longstanding systems that were not built to include or accommodate them. This is true for just about every marginalized community (which is what makes them marginalized). Buying into imposter syndrome puts the onus on [fill in the blank demographic] to deal with the effects of whatever deep-rooted systems they come in contact with that were built without regard for their needs.

Too often, it's the perennial system(s) that make it hard for people to succeed. Not something lacking in the people themselves. Instead of blaming those people over there, let's fix the system ... because it's the system that is broken not the people.

And when all people are afforded the opportunity to succeed, that's when we all succeed!

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