Business of Men

Gender pay gap: a problem that needs resolution even in first world countries

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Look, there’s no way around it. The gender pay gap is real all over the world. Sure, in the most equal country in the world (Belgium) the gap might only be 1.1 percent, but it’s still there. And the truth is, Belgium is an outlier. Most western countries have a much bigger gap. Even supposedly super equal Sweden comes in at 10.5 percent. And Us, the country of the free? They feel free to pay their women 19.5 percent less.

So why does this pay gap problem persist? Is it just men being men and oppressing women? That’s no doubt a part of it, but the problem is more complicated than that. There are a number of reasons beyond the obvious case of discrimination.

Gender roles

Society raises us to be a specific way. Based on every aspect of our appearance and our personality we’re attributed roles. None is quite as strong as the role society gives to men and women.

As a result, how men and women are seen in different roles makes can make it much harder for them to get ahead. For example, women are often seen as weak in terms of management. This stereotype persists even in the face of plenty of evidence to the contrary. And that makes it far harder for a woman to get promoted.

Even more problematic, these gender roles aren’t just external but internal as well. Many women and men have been exposed to society’s assumptions for their entire lives and as a result they hold them themselves. When I say ‘nurse’ chances are you see a woman. When I say ‘Doctor’ chances are you have the mental picture of a man.

It’s hard to deal with something like this as people can’t tackle a bias they don’t realize they have.

Job choices

Women and men choose different careers and jobs. Men are more likely, for example, to choose careers like mining and engineering, while women often choose jobs in teaching, services and clerical jobs. Whether this is because of discrimination, gender roles or something else is still hotly debated. But that doesn’t make it any less true.

The thing is, the jobs that men tend to choose often pay better than the jobs women tend to choose. And that’s obviously going to contribute significantly to the pay gap.

The easiest way to change this would be if women would go for the jobs than men do. Barring that, the jobs that women choose and men don’t will have to get paid more to create more pay equality.

Motherhood

The third aspect that influences pay is the many women who choose to step out of the work force in order to have children. This can lead to these women stepping out of the workforce. Possibly for a few years, possibly for longer.

Even if they can re-enter the workforce afterwards – something that isn’t necessarily a given – they will often re-enter with at best a salary that matches what they were being paid when they left the workforce. Sometimes it can even be substantially lower.

That, obviously, gives downward pressure on women’s income. Many countries do have paternal leave programs in place which can help recompense women who have children. Nonetheless, even then having children can still have an impact as women find that having children means they’ve got less time available for their jobs.

In part, that’s down to the continuing reality whereby women still do the majority of the housework and child rearing, even in more gender-equal countries like Canada.

So, what does that mean?

Gender pay equality is a difficult subject. Even if we manage to deal with the problem of discrimination (and I’d like to think that we are, even if slowly) that still leaves three other problems for us to deal with.

To deal with these we need a two-pronged approach. The first of which is legal, the other which is cultural. Legally, it has to become the norm that women are not punished for having children. They should be recompensed by society – particularly as the next generation is vital for the continued health of a country’s economy.

Just as importantly, however, is a push to undermine the cultural stereotypes that most of us still unconsciously hold. The best place to start such changes are in the media, where women must be presented outside of their gender-specific roles and in strong leads. In that way, men and women will get their stereotypes regularly confronted, while boys and girls will grow up with a different picture of what is okay for men and women to do.

Apparently, this is easier said than done. Even in the age where these topics get discussed a great deal, we’re still witnessing a drop in female leads in Hollywood in 2017. (To not even mention the atrocious presentation of women in such places as Bollywood). Hopefully that’s only a temporary blip. For as long as the world’s media doesn’t do her part in changing how men and women are perceived gender roles will most likely not shift.

About Alaine Gordon

alaineg@thebusinesswomanmedia.com'

Alaine Gordon is a young and talented content manager at Essays.Solutions. She has been writing professionally since 2010 about almost everything, from psychology and to finance. Alaine Gordon graduated from the University of Colorado with B.A. in Journalism, 2011. She is an open-minded, creative person who loves to make people smile. Her credo is ‘Life is a fun enterprise’. In her free time she loves traveling, reading science fiction and knitting. Her huge dream is to visit every single country in the world.

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