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Opinion: Wage Gap Allegations Must be Investigated

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Muneib Chater

Every semester, I hear the debate on whether or not a gender wage gap exists. Eventually, this piqued my interest — does a wage gap in fact exist, and if so, why?

If one simply glanced at the statistical comparisons, yes, a wage gap does seem to be present. According to Pew Research Center, women earned 83 percent of what men did in 2015. The highlighted 79 cents versus a dollar argument is commonly debated and admittedly, it makes good rhetoric for Democrats. Numbers, however, don’t always paint the entire picture. Anyone who has taken an entry level statistics course would demand insight on how such data was collected.

If the argument holds true and women do in fact get paid less than men, wouldn’t it be in the best interest of a corporation to hire the majority of their staff as women to maximize profit? My second question was, how could such a theory be viable if laws have been enacted strictly to prevent such measures? The Equal Pay Act of 1963 is just one example. Under section 6, it strictly states, “No employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section shall discriminate, within any establishment in which such employees are employed, between employees on the basis of sex.” In section 11, it gives administrations the authority and power to investigate collected data regarding wages. Again, if there are provisions enacted that can put a company under a serious lawsuit, does this theory make any sense?

It seems more evident that the wage gap exists for cultural reasons as opposed to gender or discrimination. For instance, in almost every job interview that I have been a part of I was asked whether or not I was flexible with hours. For me, it wasn’t a problem. For married women who have children, this may be different. In a number of studies, it is also evident that in a woman’s mid-20s onward, the wage gap between men and women begins to increase. Of those women who were represented while calculating the data, how many were married with children? Then, with that percentage, how many were turned down due to lack of flexibility? We live in a capitalistic society. Broadly speaking, corporations do not care about your sexuality. They care about whether or not you’re capable of making them wealthy.

In a number of studies, it’s also evident that in a women’s mid-twenties onward, the wage gap between men and women begins to increase. This again seems to validate a woman’s lack of flexibility conflicting with employment. There are other factors involved including time off during pregnancy. If this concept is then calculated in, it’s estimated that the wage gap would be four percent not 21 percent. Four percent is still a lot, how is that explained?

According to a Wall Street Journal commentary, which was written by a woman, men were almost twice as likely to work more than 40 hours a week compared to women working 35 to 39 hours a week. A 2016 CNBC article argued that women don’t get paid fairly. It stated that, “The disparity was largest — nearly 30 percent — between men and women in finance and insurance…on the other hand, the shift in favor of women’s earning power has been pronounced in the so-called STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, according to a separate analysis by Federal Reserve economists.”

Claudia Goldin, an economist at Harvard University and a former president of the American Economic Association also investigated the issue and came back with valuable information: with business, finance and various other 9 to 5 shifts, an employer may not find lack of availability as valuable. With science and tech related jobs, it won’t matter where availability exists as long as the tasks are performed and completed. In these fields, the employee really has control over their schedule rather than their schedule having control over them.

Whether an unfair gender gap truly exists still isn’t clear. To simply teach that it does is not ethical. Instead, professors should encourage further investigation. Most available evidence suggests that an unfair wage gap does not exist when adjusting for hours worked. There is still evidence floating around that suggests otherwise, and any small discovery can change the game.

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