A commonly cited statistic is that, on average, women are paid about 75 cents for every dollar that a man makes. This leads many to draw the conclusion that a male and female worker doing the exact same work with the exact same credentials will be paid differently because of sexual discrimination. Though the statistic itself is not a lie, it is misleading and leads people to draw the conclusion that this gender pay gap is purely a result of sexual discrimination in the workplace, which is not the case.
First, let’s look at the statistic itself. According to a video by George Mason University’s Learn Liberty Project, the wage gap statistic is constructed by adding up all of the incomes of women and dividing it by the number of women in the labor force, while doing the same thing for men. If you do this, you will find that, on average, women make about about 75% of what men make. However, this statistic says nothing about pay differences for doing the same work, so if women aren’t being discriminated against because of their gender, what factors contribute to this large gap? One of the main reasons that men and women make different wages is because of different investments in their skills and education.
First, field choice has a huge impact on wages. Men tend to go into fields like engineering and computer science, which pay much more than fields like education and health that are more likely to employ women. Regardless of gender, an engineer is most likely going to be paid more than an educator.
Time spent on the job also plays a role. Learn Liberty cites that women are twice as likely to work part-time as men and in general part-time workers will be paid less than full-time workers. In addition to this, Carrie Lucas of the Wall Street Journal cites that the average full-time working woman works about 8.01 hours a week, while the average full time working man works about 8.75 hours. Logically, someone who works longer hours would probably make more.
In addition, Steve Tobak on CBS’ Moneywatch cites that men are more likely to work in the evenings, on weekends, or in locations that are undesirable and isolated. Companies normally pay workers more to make these undesirable positions more appealing to workers.
One area that directly affects how much money workers make are their motivations for work. According to bestselling author Marty Nemko, a Rochester Institute of Technology study found that the pay gap between male and female business owners (which is over 50%) can largely be attributed to motivations. The study found that money was the primary motivator for 76% of men, and only 29% of women, and as wages of people who are their own boss are independent of discrimination, this can be seen as a leading factor in this gap between business owners.
Women and men also spend their time as a whole differently, the biggest difference being time spent with children, which affects wages. A good example would be my parents. Joel and Karen Latterell are both accountants by trade, and actually met while working at the same position at United Healthcare. When they met, their wages were identical; today, Joel makes much more than Karen. Why? In 2003 Karen put her career on hold to raise four children, and didn’t re-enter the labor force for nearly ten years. While Karen’s role in the family was just as important and challenging as Joel’s, the fact that Joel was constantly working contributed to the fact that he was promoted to a managerial position, and given a higher wage. Upon returning to work after raising the children, Karen had to start where she left off.
These and other factors contribute to the wage gap, which Learn Liberty says almost completely disappears when these factors are controlled for. The fact is, women and men with the same characteristics are going to make more or less the same amount of money; sex does not play a role.
Rather, sex plays a large role in what people want from their lives, which influences their decisions regarding work. The decisions that men and women make about their careers, not sexism, are the main factors in determining pay. Overall, the statement “women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes for doing the exact same job” is not only intentionally misleading, but also untrue.