Friday, January 01, 2016

The pay gap. Does it really exist?

           Planting Peace's photo.
When my Grandmother Mary wanted to be a school teacher in the late 1800s she was turned down by the Ashton school board because she lived at home with her father (her mother had died in 1896), and the thinking in those days was if a man could support her she shouldn't be taking a job from a man who might be supporting a family. I even encountered this in the 1960s when applying for a graduate assistantship--I was married, my competition was not.  Sort of like we feel today about immigrants getting the jobs we think citizens should have.  

Today we have laws and guarantees for equal pay like Iceland and have had for decades. If Iceland has high gender equality, they are probably doing the same jobs. We don't have laws (yet) demanding equal results for a B.A. in Social Studies and a PhD in Computer Science or for a woman who doesn't drop out for 10 years and one who did (as I did). For almost 40 years, women have outnumbered men in enrollment in college, but they are still not selecting the difficult and well paid degree programs. Also, highly educated women tend to marry men of the same calibre, and thus don't always enter the work force at the same rate as less wealthy women and stay home to raise their children who then do the same. For each group of college grads marry college grads, or doctors marrying doctors, or lawyers marrying lawyers, the gap widens between their families and those women who didn't go to college, or didn't marry at all before having children.

When everything is taken into consideration, like willingness to move, or to take unpleasant assignments (like travel) to get ahead, or to negotiate salary, there's almost no difference (in same job with same requirements in education). Think about it; if employers could get women to work for less for the same job, why would they hire men?  When I asked my boss why a male librarian colleague with the same work experience and education made more than I did, he told me, "Because he asked for more."

The median annual wage for high school teachers was $56,310 in May 2014., and for elementary $53,760, but based on hourly rate, they do much better than accountants and architects according the BLS. More men take the secondary position and are less common in elementary (although I remember 2 in the school my children attended in the 1970s).  Is that a pay gap or a choice?  Should people who teach compliant children the basics of their ABCs and math really make as much as people who teach "children" taller, smarter and with more discipline problems who are studying chemistry and physics?

The next time you go to the doctor even for a "wellness exam" like I did this week,  take a look at the women in the front office doing scheduling and billing, and compare them with who you see in the back doing x-ray or blood draw or stress test or bone density. There will be no men in the front, but about 1/3 to 1/2 of the tech staff will be male. What pays more? That which requires more education. How are these positions viewed in statistics? They are lumped into one category. There will even be a difference between the women in the front and those in the back--and it's very noticeable--particularly their weight and age.

HT Connie Dunn for the discussion that started on FB.

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