Yes Virigina, there is a gender-based income gap

As a future doctor, I reasonably expect to pay off my student debts in less than fifteen years. I expect to buy a house. I certainly think that I deserve the same compensation as any other person in my position–such as a man. 

It is a known fact that there is an income gap that is divided by gender in the US. April 8th was a day to commemorate the income gap, and start discussion about how to achieve greater parity. I was upset to learn just HOW wide the salary gap between men and women is, especially for doctors and surgeons. This NPR report, already a couple of years old, was enlightening, if not exactly the news I wanted. 67.6%? Really? (It’s interesting to note that pharmacists have a much smaller gender-based income gap, according to the report).

“But,” someone might argue, “women are more likely to work part-time, so of course they wouldn’t get paid as much as men. They oftentimes have other responsibilities, like childcare and maternity leave, that cut into their salaries. Women tend to go into fields that don’t pay as much to begin with. Women don’t negotiate for their salaries as hard as men do.”

In fact, this is exactly what two men have argued in the Wall Street Journal –-that the income gap isn’t really as bad as those apologist liberals make it out to be, and if women took the same kinds of risks that men did, they’d be paid more. If they were more assertive, employers would automatically fork over more. As if to further justify their position, they “reason” that if women really were cheaper labor, then there would be more of them in the workforce, because employers would seek cheaper labor.

Really? Just like undocumented workers are cheaper, so contractors should seek them out instead of good ol’ American citizens? And because childcare is work that anyone could do for free, and that’s why women deserve to be paid less by their employers? This is such an offensive logic–to every point there is a counterpoint–that I find it appalling that the WSJ published this piece of tripe. (Then again, that’s why I read the Wall Street Journal–for the relatively excellent Weekend Life & Culture, and to remind myself of the diverse and differing views that I’m up against in the US).

In the case of medicine, consider this study, which shows that even after adjusting for work hours and specialty, women are paid less across the board in medicine. Yes, women do end up being a “better deal”–because they’ve been led to believe that they have to “settle” for whatever package their most-likely male boss is offering them–but gender discrimination persists, in subtle and kind of subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

Instead, perhaps men should consider that:

  • instead of placing the duty of keeping a family glued together exclusively on womanhood, maybe there should be a cultural shift towards men taking greater responsibility for childcare (perhaps we would then get the “strong male role models” that so many conservative pundits bemoan that we’ve lost?)
  • that if employers provided more supports like in-house daycare or better health insurance, their workers, both male and female, would be more productive and they’d get more “bang for their buck”
  • that many women are able to create better work environments, innovate in teams, and lead by example and partnership by using “soft skills” in ways that many men don’t
  • that greater gender equality, as efforts to empower women in developing countries shows, has a ripple effect that leads to more equitable, more stable, and healthier societies

I don’t want to have to explain to my kids that I make less because I am a woman. I don’t want to have to wonder if I could be doing better, if only I were a man. Mostly, I want to feel fully respected in my job and know that I’m not being jipped because someone higher up thinks that my pearls and heels make me less deserving. Show me someone who believes women deserve to stay where they are right now, and I’ll show you someone who’s going to get his face kicked in by work-appropriate pumps.

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About the friendly intern

Ask a question: The Friendly Intern My personal blog: Pathos and Pathology
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