New Zealand’s mythical gender pay bias
The wage gap is a myth. Well, let me clarify. There is a gap, but it is a fantastic thing, not a bad thing.
You wouldn’t know that, of course. When we all celebrated International Women’s Day, there was plenty of talk about the awful sexism that still exists in the workplace, which apparently leads to this wage gap.
Over in America, Barack Obama even created an ‘‘Equal Pay Day’’ when he was president and proposed legislation that would force employers to show they weren’t sexist.
A couple of days before the discussion flooded media here, the indomitable Alison Mau, wrote a column in which she quoted three studies about the wage gap. Then she said it all proved one thing: ‘‘unconscious bias’’.
What did she mean? Well, it is just a fancy term for sexism, the thing Obama claimed was the problem.
It sounds good, I suppose. The only tiny little issue I can spot is that both are totally and utterly wrong. Actually, the Kiwi study Alison Mau quoted says so.
The Statistics NZ brief on Effect of Motherhood on Pay report looks at the difference in what mums and dads get paid. It concludes there is a gap.
But hidden in the bowels of the methodology section, it begs and pleads with us not to throw around labels like ‘‘unconscious bias’’. The data is too limited, it groans. The local evidence points to lads and lasses doing career differently, not sexism, it cries. No one has proved it is sexism, the study shrieks.
And I think we can all agree that it is awfully silly to draw conclusions without evidence.
Even overseas, where Obama is from, there are hordes of academics trying to explain this.
Harvard Economics Professor Claudia Goldin, who also happens to be a former president of the American Economic Association, says the gap basically comes down to choice.
Feminist and scholar Christina Hoff Sommers, wrote an article for Time.com dispelling this ‘‘feminist myth’’.
Even a metastudy of 50 peerreviewed articles done by the US Department of Labour found the American wage gap ‘‘may be almost entirely the result of individual choices being made by both male and female workers’’.
In fact, the idea that sexist, awful males are the behind the wage gap is in such desperate straits that even feminist organisations are abandoning it.
The American Association of University Women has bailed out of the ‘‘unconscious bias’’ bandwagon saying the numbers simply don’t add up to sexism when you crunch them properly. So what can we safely conclude then? Well, it seems that women have babies. And it seems that recovering from birth, and caring for an infant, takes time.
This time would usually be spent advancing a career, and so moving up the pay scale.
Instead, while male and female colleagues do just that (and dads try to get a pay rise to cope with heading onto a single wage), mums take a breather. Fair enough, I might add. Being a mum is exhausting.
By the time we’re ready to head back into the workplace, we have less experience than our peers. We also have less professional development under our belts. We often choose different roles that allow us more time with the family.
And that is why I say the gender pay gap is a fantastic thing. It shows that our ladies feel fine with staying at home and focusing on being mums.
It shows that a lot of lasses have the unbelievable privilege of choice.
Most of all it shows that the only unconscious bias we are fighting against is the one feminists hold against blokes and stay-at-home mums.
Recovering from birth and caring for an infant takes time, time which could be used advancing a career and moving up the pay scale.