The Gender Pay Gap . . .

. . . is another example of the Woman as Victim narrative that so incensed me about the #MeToo movement (link).

My recent post on Jordan Peterson (link) linked to a video (link) where he agreed that there was a pay gap between men and women, but it was the result of individual choices and not because of systemic discrimination. There was also a recent study about the pay differences between male and female Uber drivers (link: Thanks Gerry!) that found a 7% difference but concluded that it was based on differences in men’s and women’s behaviour. On the other hand, the recent issue of Macleans (link) decried the fact that women earn 26% less than men and urged that Something Be Done!

An interesting thing happened as I was looking into the arguments on both sides of this issue (and it completely changed the focus of this posting!); the Maclean’s article actually supports the position that the pay gap is not that big a deal. The article begins by stating that there is a 26% difference between men and women’s hourly wage, but then acknowledges that the 26% doesn’t take into account factors like education, age, occupation, job status, union, status, or actual hours worked. When those variables are accounted for, the difference drops to 8%. It then acknowledges that most of that 8% can be explained by two additional factors: many women choose to avoid high-paying high-pressure jobs that demand long hours, and by women choose to not negotiate salaries or ask for promotions.

Bottom line: It seems that there is a consensus that the difference in pay for men and women is small (at most 8%) and due to behavioral differences between men and women.

Macleans’s goes on to bemoan the fact that only 11% of women ask for raises or promotions and less than half of those requests (41%) actually succeed. But isn’t this the way forward? Won’t the remaining 8%  pay gap decrease even further if the silent 89% ask for raises or promotions, assuming that 41% of those requests succeed as well. Why doesn’t Maclean’s propose that women Step Up?

My question is answered later on in the article, where it says that the “onus can’t be on women to expose and right this economic injustice”. Seriously? Who does Maclean’s think the onus should be on?

This is another instance of the Woman as Victim narrative that so annoyed me about the #MeToo movement (link). The two digressions of that post are completely relevant to this current post. I reproduce them below in their entirety:

Digression: I am surprised that feminists haven’t raised this female empowerment interpretation from the beginning (the tag should not be #MeToo, it should be #StepUp!). Instead most are framing the debate differently; women are helpless victims and men would must solve this problem. Isn’t that paternalistic and patriarchal? 

Digression: This framing isn’t unique to the #MeToo movement. The anti-bullying movement, and the peanut allergy movement also mainly focus on behavioural changes on the part of the transgressors.

Serendipitiously, there was an article Mind the gap! In the Ottawa Citizen (April 11 2018) about Catt Sadler (former E! Host) who quit her job last year once she realized that she was being paid less than a colleague. She is now an advocate for pay equity. I am ambivalent about her contribution. On one hand she says “the responsibility of landing appropriate compensation falls on the individual” (Yes!!!!), but then she continues with “until laws change or the courts get involved” (No!!!!).

The Women as Victim narrative is ubiquitous, and is doing women a disservice. Instead, women should focus on developing the tools and strategies that give them the confidence to ask for raises and promotions.


2 thoughts on “The Gender Pay Gap . . .”

  1. Jordan Peterson, the subject of a previous post in this space, presents these arguments quite eloquently – siting aggressiveness (lacking in women compared to men and manifested in their lesser propensity to ask for wage increases) as a “predicter” of higher wages. His view is that gender wage discrepancies are overstated and that (simplifying here) intervention on pay scale rather than route causes mirrors the tactics of Stalin and Hitler. Those guys were nasty.


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