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Let's Tackle the Pay Gap Myth: Women Don't Make Less than Men

Women earn less than men on averageWell, actually women do make less than men, but it’s not on the scale that we’ve all been lead to believe. The fact is statistics can be engineered to reflect any point of view; liberal, conservative, pro-woman, anti-woman, etc. In the case of men earning more than women, the much believed statistic that women earn only $0.77 to each $1.00 a man earns come from comparing overall median incomes between the sexes; not by comparing the salaries of men and women holding the exact same job title, in the exact same field. With so many factors leading to why women on average, make less than men Ruth Davis Konigsberg of Time Magazine penned an article addressing the new book about women and work from Sheryl Sandberg entitled, Lean In.

In her book, Sandberg urges women to Lean In as they commit to their career. She asserts that women have to stop being timid and start finding new ways to step up in order to prove their value on the job and earn advancements in their career. However, the one thing that the Lean In author didn’t account for was the type of career fields women tend to enter versus their male counterparts. Woman make up a disproportionate number of jobs in early childhood education, nursing, and other fields where the median salary isn’t high. On the contrary, men tend to populate jobs where training and/or education in math and science are key factors, thus commanding higher salaries.

Konigsberg correctly assessed that while Sandberg was accurate in encouraging women to find more ways to advance in their careers by being alert as opportunities are presented, she failed to account for discrepancy in career fields as a large contributor to the wage gap between the sexes. She writes, “To be able to do that, (bridge the wage gap) women must choose to study subjects that lead to more lucrative occupations — information technology or economics over art history, for example. But they are not. Amazingly, the percentage of undergraduate computing and information-science degrees earned by women has actually dropped from 37% in 1985 to 18% in 2009, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. No wonder the Labor Department also reports that from 2002 to 2012, the percentage of female programmers dropped from 25.6% to 20%.”

While deconstructing the myth of the wage gap is eye-opening, there are a few disparities that hold true. On average women are earning less than men and that contrast is increased when factoring in minority women. In fact, Debbie Hines of the Huffington Post writes, “African-American women earn 64 cents to the dollar of what men earn. And Hispanic women make only 55 cents to Men earn more than women on average every dollar a white, non-Hispanic man earns.” Furthermore, she states that women without college education should be taken into account when discussing the wage gap; a notion Hines says was not included in the wage equity debate by either Konigsberg or Sandberg.

In essence, if women want to help close the wage gap they need to choose their career fields wisely. Life is all about choices and choosing wisely is the best way to achieve success. Sure. But what about the women who aren’t afforded the opportunity to attend college to make those choices? Should they earn less as a result of less education?

Also, at what point does work take a back seat to family? When it does, are women always expected to be the one to settle for less in their career to achieve work-life balance? Traditionally men have been able to access virtually any career field with ease. Women have had to fight to open doors in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields especially. Now that more women are entering those fields and attempting to level the wage gap between the sexes, should the discussion shift to how employers can empower men can help with work-life balance instead of defaulting to women to ‘lean in’ and figure it out?

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