Pressures against ambitious women underpin wage gap

Carl Karouta

Women don’t earn 77 cents on the dollar for the same work as men. If they did, companies would only hire women. The 77 percent figure is not so much a myth as it is a blatant use of statistics without context.

Yes, in a random sample of men and women, men will likely make more money. It’s not necessarily just, but it is explainable. The 77 percent figure that the White House and so many others report comes from raw wage data that looks only at the annual salary of all men and compares it to the annual salary of all women regardless of job type or hours worked.

In the United States, as well as most of the world, there exists a labor dynamic such that the economy compensates employees more when they work more hours and in more profitable industries.

Additionally, there exists a social dynamic such that women work fewer hours per year, taking more unpaid time off and parental leave, and work in less profitable industries.

Women make up only 18.3 percent of the workforce in the oil and gas industry, but 75.4 percent of elementary school teachers are women. The median pay for a petroleum engineer is $129,990. For elementary school teachers the median annual wage is $53,760. The 77 percent figure makes quite a bit of sense now.

Controlling for all these disparities such as education and career choices, women earn 93 to 95 percent of what men earn for the same job. A likely explanation for the remaining five to seven percent is that women are far less likely to negotiate salaries than men. In a study conducted by the Stockholm School of Economics, researchers found that only 28.1 percent of women were willing to negotiate for more pay compared to 42.5 percent of men.

With this in mind, how do we solve this problem? We need to homogenize fields like engineering and education. We need to dispel the idea that a child is more the mother’s responsibility than the father’s. We need to address the gender roles that propagate the idea that men, exclusively, must serve as providers. We need to motivate girls just as much as boys to have successful careers. We need to stop complimenting young girls only on their beauty and boys on their achievements. We need to eradicate the idea of “being a man.”

We need to stop seeing gender. Erase from your mind the concepts of femininity and masculinity. Every day, if you notice yourself attributing any trait other than actual sex organs to a certain sex, correct yourself. And in 10 years, when your mother won’t let your son watch Frozen 3, correct her.

Already, female students are planning their futures with more focus on their careers than on their prospective families. Through this incremental change, we will see progress in and out of the workforce. I’m not asking for a complete sociological revolution, I’m asking for equality.

Karouta is a chemical engineering freshman from Plano.