by Meredith Schellin, Executive Editor
Like any other college senior, I have taken up the job search. But for me and the other hundreds of thousands of females graduating in May the recent buzz of the gender wage gap hits pretty close to home.
In recent weeks the public has been made very aware of the “77 cents to the dollar” divide, from Patricia Arquette’s Oscar’s speech for, “wage equality once and for all” to President Obama’s State of the Union reminder that,” it’s 2015 and past time for Congress to ensure women are paid the same as men for doing the same work.”
The American public has realized the fact that men and women make different amounts of money, but after this is acknowledged, some of the facts become a little cloudy. Here are three myths about the gender wage gap we have gotten wrong.
1. Women earn less because the industries they work in pay less.
According to the Washington Post there are more women who are in low paying jobs like teachers, social workers and stay at home moms. This gives way to the idea that women earn less simply because they have decided to take less lucrative jobs. However, in recent years we have seen a push to encourage young girls to pursue more high paying careers like engineers, scientists and lawyers. Fields that have typically been seen as “high-profile” and even “unfeminine.” This proves that the issue is not necessary male or female dominated work fields, and which receives a higher pay grade, but rather the idea that a male engineer will make more than a female engineer. Harvard labor economist Claudia Goldin said, “There is a belief, which is just not true, that women are just in bad occupations and if we just put them in better occupations, we would solve the gender gap problem.” Goldin has noted that the pay gap tends to be the widest in the highest-paying fields. For example, she reported that female doctors earn 71 percent of what their male counterparts make and female lawyers and judges make 82 percent of what their male counterparts earn. This takes into account age, race, hours and education.
2. Women earn less because they do not negotiate well.
Regardless of if women choose to pursue a high-profile job or not, it has been reported by the Washington Post that women are four times less likely to ask for a raise than men. The initial reaction to this statistic would be that this must be what perpetuates the gender gap, however, women confess they do not ask for raises and ask for lower salaries not because they are not capable of doing so but rather because they fear the repercussions they may suffer as a result.
This fear is not totally baseless: Studies have shown that women who advocate for themselves are often viewed as pushy, bossy and even unappreciative , while men who act in a similar manner are seen as practicing good business sense. Jill Abramson, the former executive editor of The New York Times, said that just before she was fired from her position she had confronted her bosses about the fact that the male editor that had preceded her was paid considerably more than she was. Women like Abramson have shown us that while a $5,000 difference in a starting salary may not seem like a huge deal at the beginning of your career, it can easily escalade to $500,000 difference in lifetime earnings.
3. Women earn less because they choose to be mothers and mothers work less.
It has been proven that men tend to earn more the more children they have, whereas women typically see their pay go down with each child they have. Now, we must take into account that there are women who do adjust their work schedule once they have children—for most part that is by choice, however there are many jobs that do not compensate women enough to cover the cost of child care which causes them to cut their hours in order to accommodate the lives of their children.
There is also the “motherhood penalty” that stems from the perception that working moms are less dedicated and less efficient employees. According to the Washington Post this idea results in mothers being paid 7 to 14 percent less than women without children for equivalent work. Not only that it makes it harder for moms who lose or quit their jobs to gain new positions.
The problem is, not only does the “motherhood penalty” play into the gender wage gap, it goes against the research of over 10,000 academic economist that have found on average that motherhood makes women better problem-solvers, improves their memory and helps them become better at handling stress.