Recently I came across an article on Time Magazines website titled “The Pay Gap is Not as Bad as You (and Sheryl Sandberg) Think”. This article is a glaring example of the obstacles we are facing in finding solutions to the gender wage gap. The author, Ruth Davis Konigsberg, discuss the so-called “fallacy that the pay-gap ratios so often cited are for women and men doing the same job”. She claims that pay gap differences are not due to inequalities, but rather, women’s decisions, as she states it, “that supposed pay gap can be attributed not to institutional discrimination but to choices that women make.” She goes on to describe how the 77 cents figure is deceiving and by her calculations, taking into account several factors, women are actually making 93 cents to the man’s dollar. Her reasoning is actually logical, as she takes into consideration occupations, work hours, and undergraduate majors in evaluating the wage difference between men and women. The American Association of University Women findings that with college majors, occupation, and number of hours worked taken into consideration, the gap shrinks to 7%, backs up her analysis. The problem I had with her article is it focuses heavily on women’s choices and places a heavy internal blame on the majority of workplace barriers women face. She discuss that the median income for men is 23% higher than women because men are found in more lucrative positions and fields. Yet, she does not acknowledge the discrimination women face in workplace gains in terms of more lucrative positions. She severely underestimates the existence of institutional and societal discrimination and this type of thought could have severe consequences in the battle for equality in the workplace.
This is not to say she does not have valid or strong points, because she does, but rather, she disregards the serious role that gender discrimination plays in workplace gains for women. The facts don’t lie, women do compose a higher portion of workers in lower salary fields. The majority of women also sway toward college majors that have less lucrative salaries. Although, It is interesting to consider if the reasons for the lower wages in such fields are because they are women dominated? Regardless, for the women that do seek carriers in more lucrative fields and positions they face many social implications and workplace discriminations that prevent and limit their advancement. The institutional discrimination is not only apparent in the salary that a women receives, with all factors considered, but also with the social barriers she faces in choosing a higher paying field that is male dominated. Konigsberg is absolutely right in saying the statistics don’t tell the real story. But not because they cause us to underestimate the extent of our external barriers in the workplace, rather because the statistics don’t include the societal and personal struggles and penalties women are handed when they choose to be professionally ambitious.