Real facts that mat­ter on the gen­der pay gap

Winnipeg Sun - - COMMENT -

Don’t trust the Cana­dian me­dia when it comes to sto­ries about the so-called gen­der pay gap.

Depend­ing on the day, and the lat­est study from a leftwing ad­vo­cacy group, we’re told women earn some­where around 70% of that of their male col­leagues. And, we’re told, it’s be­cause of deeply in­grained sex­ism and a so­ci­ety-wide bias against women.

We re­cently saw sto­ries claim­ing that On­tario Uni­ver­si­ties pay fe­male pro­fes­sors about 10% less than male pro­fes­sors.

The prob­lem with these sto­ries is that they com­pare ap­ples to oranges.

The stud­ies are based on a one-di­men­sional look at the data. Pay gap stud­ies lit­er­ally only con­trol for one fac­tor: gen­der, and ig­nore other fac­tors that de­ter­mine how much a per­son earns, like oc­cu­pa­tion, ex­pe­ri­ence, ed­u­ca­tion, se­nior­ity, parental sta­tus, union sta­tus and num­ber of hours worked.

Many gen­der gap stud­ies lit­er­ally take the av­er­age salary of all women, and com­pare it the av­er­age salary of all men.

It’s the equiv­a­lent of look­ing up every­one with the last name “Jones” and com­par­ing their salary with every­one named “Smith.”

If it turns out the Jone­ses earn 10% more, on av­er­age, would we con­clude there must be con­spir­a­to­rial fac­tors hold­ing the Smiths down? Hardly.

But that’s how the wage gap is cal­cu­lated. It doesn’t com­pare doc­tors to doc­tors, or work­ers with the same ex­pe­ri­ence, ed­u­ca­tion and num­bers of hours worked. It com­pares stay-at-home moms with worka­holic never-mar­ried men.

If we want a real pic­ture of what is go­ing on — be­cause there is an 8% pay gap when stud­ies look at the all rel­e­vant fac­tors — we should also look at fac­tors be­yond gen­der.

For in­stance, stud­ies show that women, on av­er­age, work fewer hours than men. Men are more likely to pur­sue higher pay­ing pro­fes­sions like en­gi­neer­ing, more likely to re­lo­cate for a job, and more likely to pri­or­i­tize work of over things like time with fam­ily.

Men take more risks, which is par­tially what leads to them get­ting more eco­nomic re­wards. But there are ob­vi­ous down-sides to those risks. Men are 20 times more likely to die in the work­place than women, and men make up about 97% of all work­place deaths.

And, there are other rea­sons for the gen­er­al­ized dis­crep­ancy in pay between men and women.

An anal­y­sis in Den­mark found that the num­ber of hours women worked plum­meted af­ter the birth of their first child. Men, mean­while, con­tin­ued on the same tra­jec­tory af­ter their child is born.

In other words, women who chose to start a fam­ily tend to de­vote more time to that fam­ily and less time to their job.

The more we look into the data, the more we see that it’s women’s choices, not some kind of sex­ism or con­spir­acy, that leads to the gap.

In fact, one study found that never-mar­ried women earn about 8% more than never-mar­ried men.

Fem­i­nists try to pit women against men, but frankly, that’s why fem­i­nism is so un­pop­u­lar.

We shouldn’t think of the econ­omy in a men vs. women di­chotomy, since most fam­i­lies con­sist of both men and women.

If a woman wants to earn more money, she can — by mak­ing dif­fer­ent choices, like be­com­ing an en­gi­neer, work­ing more hours, not get­ting mar­ried and not hav­ing chil­dren.

The re­al­ity is that most women don’t want to make these choices.

In­stead of so­cial en­gi­neer­ing, gen­der quo­tas, and an in­sis­tence on equal­ity of out­come, we should cel­e­brate the free­dom we have — and con­tinue to let women make choices for them­selves.

CANDICE MAL­COLM

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