The gender pay gap goes deeper than you think.

The gender pay gap is real and disconcerting. Jennifer Lawrence’s outrage and the unfair treatment of US women’s football team’s gross mistreatment have brought this important issue into the limelight. Most arguments around this have been narrow minded, they fail to see the actual variables at play. A common call in favor of retribution seeks the implementation of a policy that prevents wage discrimination. It is uncertain how this would play out in a market driven economy. We shouldn’t seek to resolve this complex problem with mere tokenism.

Fair pay for fair work

The gender gap would be considerably reduced and might vanish altogether if firms did not have an incentive to disproportionately reward individuals who have labored longer hours and worked particular hours”

This is what Dr. Claudia Goldin, a Harvard University labor economist wrote in a paper on the issue. This seems very counter intuitive to equal pay for equal work. If we are paying people by the hour, then those who put in more, should be paid commensurately and not the same as someone who has put in less. I wouldn’t agree that this is an effective model to even the wages between people.

I believe that wages must be paid according to merit and the amount of work one accomplishes. In a market driven by capitalism, one is paid for the amount of revenue they generate. This is an equitable way of remunerating an employee. I would draw the same line even in Sports and Entertainment professions. The comments by Ray Moore were despicable and hints at his personal distaste for women. Novak Djokovic made a mess of the things when he tried to use biology to cover for market interest. The prize money for the tournaments must be based on the revenue that the matches generate. You cannot take from one and give it to the other. It comes back to paying someone for the work they have done and not for the someone else’s.

If one argued that this is covertly sexist thing to do because men’s events will always draw more spectators and sponsors, for sports has always been an industry dominated by the male bastion, they would be wrong. In 2015, the tickets for the women’s US open final sold out much earlier than the men’s event. The US team’s 5–2 women’s football world cup final win over Japan was watched by more than twenty-five million people in the United States, the largest-ever television audience for any English-speaking broadcast of any soccer game, men’s or women’s. Do these women deserve higher remuneration in these cases? Absolutely!

Dr. Goldin also appeared in a Freakanomics podcast where she spoke about her study which revealed that more female candidates are accepted to a program when the applicants where screened through blind auditions. She goes on to suggest that the increase in the intake of female candidates (by over 25%) was on account of more women participating in the auditions. She summarizes the study by expounding how women suffer from a lack of confidence and that keeps them away from applying to high paying jobs. There is also another interpretation of this study which goes untold. That the judging panel evaluated the participants on their music alone and not their gender. It is likely that there existed a sub-conscious if not an overt bias towards women applicants which accounts for the lower intake of women in the previous auditions.

Discrimination is the glass ceiling

The work done by women is valued lower than the work done by men. It is true that when women enter an industry traditionally dominated by men and take over, they are paid less than what their male counterparts were paid. The case against discrimination of women in the workplace simply does not hold-up. Many managers prefer hiring men over women because in their ill-formed minds, they are convinced that men will put in more work than women. They firmly believe that women workers will not stretch beyond their work hours. The prospect of promoting or hiring an unmarried women who is of the “marriage age” in my country is viewed as a gamble by many in the middle management. While I condemn their behavior, their fears are not unfounded. Many women in this country stop working or pause for a few years because it is “expected” of them. They take their roles as care givers and nurturers during this period of domestication. I have no studies or data to back these statements up, they are purely anecdotal and extrapolations from my observations.

This brings me to an interesting piece aptly titled — The foul reign of the biological clockpublished by The Guardian and this other piece carried out by The Atlantic titled “How Long Can You Wait to Have a Baby?”. Both these articles go out to lucidly deconstruct the argument behind the biological clock and how it is enforced on women. They describe in detail of how this sexist idea expounds the decline in sexual fertility in women as they age but rarely point out that it also declines in men. Women are still viewed as the primary care givers and nurturers in a family. They are often find themselves sacrificing their personal or professional lives to get ahead in the other. It isn’t that men don’t contribute to the family but they simply don’t do as much as the women. This results in women having to take more time off after having a baby, while men continue working. The current maternity policies do the very least they can to help women. Instituting a paternity policy to facilitate men to take time off from work and help in the rearing of a child, while the women went back to work would have profound bearing on this so called “mommy tax”.

Women are less confident than men and we are responsible for it

One of the most important reasons for the gender pay gap is the lack of confidence in women. We as a society are collectively responsible for this. Advertising constantly inundates them with false imagery. It tells them that they are not perfect, that they can be “worth it”. Upbringing, environment and biology play a significant role in shaping women’s confidence. A study by HP points out that men would apply for a position even when the possess only 60% of the required skills whereas women would wait until they are 100% qualified.

The Dunning-Kruger effect: the tendency for some people to substantially overestimate their abilities. The less competent people are, the more they overestimate their abilities is very strong in the case of men. Several studies have illustrated this time and again. Women tend to blame themselves for everything and hence are more reticent when it comes to negotiating salaries and promotions. An article in The Atlantic titled, “The Confidence Gap” does a fantastic job of analyzing the reasons for such disparity in confidence between men and women and how it affects career progression.

The gender pay gap will not be closed through policy alone. It is an issue that needs to be approached holistically. We need raise our daughters better, help them build their confidence as they age. We should stop reinforcing gender stereotypes. Men should be sensitized to these issues from a very young age. In this day and age, we cannot continue to treat one half of the population unjustly and claim to have reached the pinnacle of evolution. Couples must equally participant in rearing a child and split the household chores equally. Children learn by mimicking adults. They need better examples to model themselves on. The abuse of the kindness of women must stop.

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