Opinion: The Wage Gap is Not a Myth
The wage gap in America, mythical or not, continues to be a topic of intense discussion among men and women in the workplace. After reading Muneib Chater’s “Wage Gap Allegations Must be Investigated” published last week on the Albany Student Press website, I decided to do a little sleuthing of my own. The article made many interesting points about the wage gap and its mystical existence. One question the author brought up to express his doubt about the wage gap’s existence was why corporations and big companies do not simply “hire the majority of their staff as women to maximize profit.”
But there lies a problem within this question, which can be answered through the law. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, U.S. law “forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments…and any other term or condition of employment.” This includes discrimination based on the sex of the worker. Therefore, if companies or larger corporations hire employees based on their sex to save money, they would be violating that law, and I’m not sure the company would be getting away with that for too long.
But, if it is true that U.S. law forbids discrimination on pay, why is it that, according to a New York Times article, immediately after graduating from college with a Master’s in Business Administration, women are paid only up to 90% of what men make? Is it due to a stereotypical reason or something more complex? And, if it is due to either, how is paying women 10% less not considered a discriminatory problem in the workplace? If employers are forbidden by law to discriminate based on sex, the “pay” aspect of the law should be outlined more in depth to dissuade, and eventually eliminate, this behavior.
As Chater’s article demonstrates, it’s important to consider how big of a role motherhood plays in determining the size of the wage gap in America. As the same New York Times article used above states, the wage gap increases exponentially within a woman’s late twenties to early thirties.
In this time, most women are settling down with families and children, which limits the time they can put into their jobs. As a result, women in relationships that make less than their male counterparts usually will make the decision to take on more of the household roles—like cooking and cleaning. Due to this, as stated through an interview with economist Sari Kerr, women end up perpetuating a “self-reinforcing cycle.”
Employers must obviously be taking these ideas into account when hiring women if they are already paid 10% less than what a man makes immediately after graduating college. Research has shown that employers will pay female employees less because they assume women “will be less committed” to their jobs because of future children or familial responsibilities. Shouldn’t this be counted as discrimination based on sex? How would men react if they found out their employer was paying them less simply because they might have children in the future? If men were the individuals being discriminated against, would anything be done about it?
In my opinion, based on my experience being a woman, would conclude that if this discriminatory practice were being taken out on men, it would have been amended as soon as they stepped foot in the workplace, or soon after. A student on campus echoed my thoughts, when she told me she did a multiple page research paper about the wage gap in America. I asked her if the wage gap existed and she replied, “there is not a doubt in my mind that it does.”