At a recent bake sale at a Utah high school students decided to sell cookies for one dollar to males and seventy-seven cents to females as a reflection of the current pay gap in today’s society. In Canada our statistics tell us that for every dollar a man makes, a women with a graduate degree makes 96 cents, a women with a bachelor’s degree makes 89 cents and a women with a trade’s certificate makes a mere 65 cents to her male counterpart. (Stats Can) In the recent past social constructs told women that they were not permitted to be in the workforce and once given admission to join were doing so under the conditions of men who had already occupied it. Rooted in women’s initial entrance into the workforce, men continue to employ antiqued stereotypes about gender roles as a means to maintain the stable system of inequality that is the gender pay gap in society.
Despite huge strides made towards eliminating this belief, gender socialization still tells us from an early age that household roles for females take precedence over their roles in a career. There has been a stable system of inequality in place that places men as breadwinners and as a result power holders while women remaining at home, powerless. This system has been argued to have been maintained by stereotyping women as communal, docile beings. (Rudman and Glick) If a women’s career cannot be validated as her true job, instead of raising kids or maintaining a house, how can she expect to be credited for he work in the same way that a man is? It is also these same stereotypes of emphasized femininities that tell women that if she sticks to ‘traditional’ caring and nurturing roles she can bask in what society deems to be a woman. Seeking ‘non-traditional’ roles triggers sexism in her society. (Fine) I feel many women fear this backlash and work to fit the expected niche of a woman in a family. The concept of sacrificial motherhood means a woman may not be able to devote herself to a career in the way that a man can without fear of criticism. Sadly, I feel this means women will not pick careers that require extended amounts of graduate studies (often those that are high paying) or once having her career may not put in extra time, opting instead to use this time fulfilling duties she feels is expected of her at home. This pattern would maintain the pay disparity we see today.
It is important that pay inequality be viewed as a discriminatory act against women despite it not being as overt as a racial slur or a tangible hate crime. The discrimination a woman may face during both her hiring process and her time employed also correlates with how much she will make on average comparative to men. The jobs that often bring in a larger paycheck are those that are managerial positions. The traits that we associate with leadership are in direct conflict with traits that society perpetuates that belong to women. Studies have shown that agentic women are viewed to be socially deficient and as a result experience hiring discrimination. (Rudman and Glick) Discrimination is something that is learned and not innate. We see discriminatory practises intersecting with inbred social constructs to disqualify women from positions where they may earn higher wages. These constructs that do not have room for women in positions of power are the same that often delegate women to ‘pink-collar’ jobs where they are obstructed from advancing in organizational hierarchies. (Fine)
The androcentric lens in which many view our current workforce in free markets sees no pay gap. We seem to believe that where you end up is a direct result of the work you put in and the degrees you have earned. Removing this lens, you will see a hierarchy in which men are elevated. Susan Faludi asks “what ‘equality’ are all these authorities talking about?” She reminds us that American women make up two-thirds of poor adults and nearly seventy-five percent of women still make less that twenty thousand dollars per year. (Faludi) For women to make more however, men must make less. I do not think it is in the nature of anyone who holds power to relinquish it. Living in a society driven by personal incentive and gain, we often do not see people investing themselves in issues that do not affect them personally. In the United States, Reagen’s reign as president pushed millions of women below the poverty line as his administration made severe budget cuts to programs that serve women. (Faludi) You cannot expect an administration lead by and serving the interests of white, wealthy males to consider women, the poor and people of colour when making decisions. Until we see women, and all kinds of women, represented in places of power in society, I think it will be hard to push the issue of a pay gap to the forefront of any political agendas.
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Rudman, Laurie & Glick, Peter. “Prescriptive Gender Stereotypes and Backlash Toward Agentic Women.” Journal of Social Issues (2001) : 743-762. Web. 2 Apr. 2015
Fine, Cordelia. Delusions of Gender. [Kindle Edition]. (2010). Retrieved from Amazon.com
Statistics Canada. “Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical Report.” (2013). Web. 2 Apr. 2015 http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/89-503-x/89-503-x2010001-eng.htm
Faludi, Susan. “Backlash, the undeclared war against American women.” (1991) Web. 2 Apr. 2015 <https://ereserves.library.queensu.ca/ares/ares.dll?SessionID=R112317293N&Action=10&Type=10&Value=13761>