Here are some commonly held beliefs about the wage gap amongst genders:
- Women are paid less than men…..but, they do have to take time off to give birth to children. They end up costing more to companies than male workers. Shouldn’t it make sense in a perfectly Capitalistic society to pay them slightly less?
- Let us say that the wage gap is too large to be justified by the above alone. But wouldn’t it make sense for the wage gap to still exist, albeit in a slightly reduced form?
- Let us say that companies have a moral imperative to pay women equal wages as men, even if they end up costing the company more. Large corporations are morally entitled to uplift the condition of women, even at the cost of their profits. But doesn’t that take away from what makes Capitalism work and….fill in the blanks….lead ultimately to Communism, impoverished nations and those same women living in much worse conditions?
- Isn’t it possible that women are paid less than men because they are primarily employed in different kinds of jobs? For instance, most receptionists are women, and most CEOs are men, perhaps due to anti-feminist societal tendencies in the past. Wouldn’t it make sense for the wage gap to exist if women and men, on average, are doing different kinds of jobs?
These beliefs are fairly commonplace. I’m not trying to take moral high ground here. I’ve definitely thought about these questions myself, and I’ve never been able to address them successfully. These beliefs have now been proven to be wrong.
Consider the abstract of Taste-based gender discrimination in South Korea.
The wage inequality increases with prejudice against women, independent of all other societal factors.
But what if:
- These results don’t hold up in America, or other nations around the globe?
- What are the confidence intervals for the “attribution to prejudice against women”?
- If only one-third to one-fourth of the female earning disadvantage can be attributed to prejudice, it is possible that there are other more important factors at play that influence the wage gap. What are those?
I think doing a high-powered study of this question in several countries would hopefully aid in shifting the societal understanding of this question.
Note that this study is contradicted by The Gender Wage Gap: Extents, Trends and Explanations, which says that the wage gap persists because women work shorter hours in general or take more time off, and that they generally take on roles with lower compensation. Prejudice against women has decreased in importance as a factor that influences that wage gap, although it cannot completely be discounted.