Every year on April 11, activist women mark Equal Pay Day, in which they engage in ritual angst over the raw deal they’re supposedly getting from our male-dominated society. But as Carrie Lukas of the Independent Women’s Formum writes, the gap is largely a myth.
Talking about a wage gap is especially dubious in the current economic climate, after a recession in which men suffered many more lost jobs than women. Today, even after the recovery has added back all the GDP lost during the recession, male unemployment is higher than female unemployment and there are many more male discouraged workers than female.
Much of the supposed wage gap comes from life choices. As Lukas notes, “Women gravitate toward jobs with fewer risks, more comfortable conditions, regular hours, more personal fulfillment and greater flexibility.” Women, in other words, are willing to trade higher pay for the job characteristics they prefer. Men are more likely to take jobs that are physically demanding, have shifts at odd times, entail higher risks — but offer more pay.
Then there’s the fact that men work longer hours than women. The government’s time-use survey finds that full time women are on the job an average of 8.01 hours a day, compared with 8.75 hours for men. That difference alone — 9 percent — accounts for more than a third of the wage gap.
In some instances, the wage gap even reverses: Lukas: “In a 2010 study of single, childless urban workers between the ages of 22 and 30, the research firm Reach Advisors found that women earned an average of 8% more than their male counterparts.”
No one would argue that gender-equity issues have utterly vanished in the workplace, but there’s no sense — and a psychological cost — in nursing an exaggerated grievance. Equal Pay Day should fade quietly into history.