There Isn’t a Pay Gap After All

The largest argument used by equal pay activists is the statistic that women earn 79 cents only for every dollar a typical American man makes, but this statistic is largely false.

According to a study by PayScale, first published in The Atlantic, “the wage gap nearly evaporates when you control for occupation and experience among the most common jobs, especially among less experienced workers. It is only as careers advance, they found, that men outpaced female earnings as they made their way toward the executive suite.”

In other words, men and women who have the same job make the same amount of money. However, men and women often go into different fields, so it is only when they have different jobs that they make different amounts of money. The comparison cannot be described in a simple statistic because two different things are being compared.

 “The official Bureau of Labor Department statistics show that the median earnings of full-time female workers is 77 percent of the median earnings of full-time male workers. But that is very different than “77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men.” The latter gives the impression that a man and a woman standing next to each other doing the same job for the same number of hours get paid different salaries. That’s not at all the case. “Full time” officially means 35 hours, but men work more hours than women. That’s the first problem: We could be comparing men working 40 hours to women working 35,” explains, Hanna Rosin, author of The End of Men, in a 2013 Slate article.

Women pursue different jobs than men and therefore make a different amount of money for a variety of reasons. First of all, many women have to juggle motherhood with their jobs.

“The expectation that women more than men bear the responsibility to raise children gently nudges thousands of highly educated women out of full-time work,” says Derek Thompson writing for The Atlantic

Also, men still dominate the higher paying jobs.   

“Nine of the ten lowest-paying jobs (e.g.: child-care worker, library assistant) were disproportionately female. Nine of the ten highest-paying jobs (e.g.: software architect, psychiatrist) were majority male,” Mr. Thompson also explains.

Lastly, women simply are interested in different fields than men.

“The top masters degrees for men were business administration and management, electrical, electronics and communications engineering, and educational leadership and management. The top master degrees for women were business administration and management, education, and social work,” reports the National Center for Education Statistics.

Male dominated jobs such as business administration and management, electrical, electronics and communications engineering, and educational leadership and management are known to pay more than jobs that women typically work in.  

So when having a conversation about equal pay, the focus should not be on paying those who work different jobs the same amount. Instead, steps should be taken to give women opportunities in higher paying jobs. When this happens, women and men can truly be equal.